Dialogue: Samuel L. Jackson on 'Django Unchained' and Playing "the Most Despised Negro in Cinematic History"

Dialogue: Samuel L. Jackson on 'Django Unchained' and Playing "the Most Despised Negro in Cinematic History"

Dec 19, 2012

The first rule to interviewing Samuel L. Jackson is forget everything you know or think you know about interviewing a person. The second rule: Prepare to curse... a lot. In Quentin Tarantino's new film Django Unchained, Samuel L. Jackson plays Stephen, a truly despicable slave who oversees a place called Candyland, belonging to Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Calvin Candie, a ruthless, unforgiving slave owner who enjoys watching slaves fight each other to the death. At times, Jackson and DiCaprio come off as a wildly comedic duo, riffing off one another's unusual eccentricities, and then there are other times where these guys are so brutal and menacing, you can't wait to see them get more than a taste of their own medicine.

Jackson has called his character in Django "the most despised Negro in cinematic history," and he's damn happy about that. When we sat down with him at the Ritz in New York City, we spoke a bit about playing a villain as opposed to a hero, as well as a whole bunch of other things -- like his favorite television shows, the crazy impromptu Bobby Brown concert that Jamie Foxx performed on set and, of course, his future in the Marvel movieverse.

Movies.com: It's funny, my mom is a big fan of yours. Huge fan.

Samuel L. Jackson: [Laughs] That's cool. Awesome!

Movies.com: You must have some weird fans. Are they a mix of characters, or are they all people who like using the word "motherf**ker?"

Jackson: Yes, I have some of those. I have the respectful fans who just walk up to me, want to shake my hand and tell me how much they respect me and my work. Some fans walk up and are like, "Thank you for bringing me years of enjoyment." And then I have other fans who are like, "Just call me motherf**ker, please!"

Movies.com: Which do you enjoy playing more: the good guy, like Nick Fury in The Avengers, or do you like playing the bad guy more and being a badass?

Jackson: If he's an interesting good guy. Most bad guys are very interesting. Some good guys are, not most of them. I usually enjoy the character that I'm doing. I usually pick a film because I want to see the film and I want to see myself in it. I like all of them -- I don't dislike any of them. Ya know, people tend to ask you strange questions, like 'Well what about the self-hatred? Being a villain, don't you just feel bad?' Villains don't think of themselves as villains -- this is what we do. Villains do what villains do, and everybody else is wrong. You have your own sense of right and wrong.

Movies.com: You look like you're having a lot of fun with this role in Django. Was this the most fun you've had in a Quentin Tarantino movie?

Jackson: No, the most fun I had working with Quentin was on Jackie Brown. I had a great time doing [Django], because I love being in New Orleans, in the South, where it's muggy and we're in the right place [for this sort of film]. All the right things are there. We had a great group of people around us, and I enjoyed it. 

Movies.com: Tell us about why you loved working on Jackie Brown so much.

Jackson: I love Jackie Brown because it's this adult movie about people at a crossroads, making choices about where my life is going. It was an interesting group to be in. To be in a space with Bobby [De Niro], and work with him was great. Just like being in a space with Leo [DiCaprio] was great, because they make choices. And once they commit, they commit

Movies.com: You've called your character in Django "the most despised Negro in cinematic history." Do you truly believe that he is?

Jackson: I hope so. That's the goal. I know who he is, and I know the kinds of things he does -- he's a despicable individual. When an audience sits down and watches him, you have to say to yourself: okay, are they gonna be glad when it comes time for him to get it? If that's the case, then I've done my job. If audiences are like, "Phew, thank god he's dead."

Movies.com: You know, typical Quentin -- the film itself is like a range of emotions. It's serious and brutal and emotional, and yet it's also extremely funny. Did you find it difficult to be all those things at once? 

Jackson: No because it's the truth. It's the truth of the moment. If you play the truth of any moment, things happen. And sometimes funny sh*t happens when you least expect it. Quentin has a very adept knack for writing those kinds of things. I mean, where else are you gonna find a movie about some Klansmen getting to ride down on some people and one of them goes, "I can't f**king see." That's some random sh*t. And then another one goes, "I can't see anything either." Now all of them are complaining, and you're laughing and laughing, until you realize, wait, now they're going to kill some people. 

Movies.com: Quentin loves doing that to the audience; toying with their emotions. He shows you something really funny, and then something insanely brutal within the span of five minutes. 

Jackson: Yeah, you throw them off somewhere.

Movies.com: Have you ever pitched Quentin your own movies? Or your own ideas?

Jackson: Nope. We just talk about sh*t.

Movies.com: What was the most fun you had on this set?

Jackson: That dining room scene took weeks to shoot. So we're in there, and every time Quentin says cut, then music just pops up out of nowhere. We were doing something one day, downstairs on a break, and Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" came on. For some reason Jamie [Foxx] was up on the balcony, and he just started doing this Bobby Brown routine, lip-syncing to the music. And there were these four slave girls in outfits behind him, and he just grabbed them and they all started doing this choreographed dance, like we were at some Bobby Brown concert, but in antebellum clothes. It was the craziest thing in the word. And the real crazy thing is that no one got it on tape or film because there are no electronics allowed on set. There were all kinds of occurrences like that.

Movies.com: Tell us more!

Jackson: So many amazing moments, like where Leo cuts his hand in the movie, when he's doing that big speech at the table, he actually cuts his hand. Oh yeah, he smashed his hand down on this glass, but he kept doing the scene. It turned out brilliant, and Quentin kept it -- I didn't see it cut from the movie. Leo just pulled the glass out of his hand and kept going. It was awesome. 

Movies.com: Was there a lot cut out from the movie?

Jackson: Oh there's a ton of stuff not in the movie. If Quentin put out the five-hour, Blu-ray director's cut of this movie, it would be so different from the movie that's just there, in terms of its intensity and the horrific sh*t. People hate me now, but if they saw the sh*t that's not in the movie that I did...

Movies.com: Like what? Give us a little bit of the horrific sh*t ...

Jackson: A little bit of the horrific sh*t? Okay. I burned Django's nipples off with a hot poker at one point. 

Movies.com: Ha! Was that a fun scene to shoot?

Jackson: F*ck yeah. Awesome time doing that sh*t.

Movies.com: There's a ton of crazy, inventive violence in this movie. Did you guys get together and brainstorm the most messed up things to do to a person?

Jackson: Nope, Quentin already wrote it. 

Movies.com: Out of all these characters you've played for him, are there any that you're itching to play again?

Jackson: Everybody wants to know what happened to Jules on his walk around the world. They're already doing the prequel to Jackie Brown, with Mos Def playing Ordell. I loved Ordell, that was a great character for me. I'd love to see him do some more stuff.

Movies.com: Speaking of your other roles, I'm kind of a big fan of Die Hard with a Vengeance.

Jackson: Zeus!

Movies.com: I've always wanted to see you reprise your role from that movie in one of these sequels they keep doing. Why does that not happen? 

Jackson: They kept saying they were going to put us back together in another Die Hard movie, but it never happened. Where is this new one -- what is he in Russia?

Movies.com: Yeah.

Jackson: Yippie-ki-yay motherf**ker! [Laughs] I saw the trailer.

Movies.com: You guys have great chemistry together. Have you ever wanted to do something else with Bruce Willis?

Jackson: Yeah, we had great chemistry in Unbreakable too, which was supposed to be a trilogy and that never happened.  That would be great, though. I like Bruce. 

Movies.com: Where do you go from here? You have Oldboy, RoboCop ...

Jackson: Oldboy is done, that's finished. I still have to do RoboCop, and go to Toronto in January. After that I'm doing this live-action version of Kite, the Japanese anime film. So I'm doing a live-action version of that in Johannesburg. And then I do... Captain 2.

Movies.com: How many more of those [Marvel movies] are you going to do, you think?

Jackson: I got three or four left on my contract. 

Movies.com: Do you like playing Nick Fury? It seems like you want to break out and start cursing up a storm. You give a more restrained performance when it comes to him.

Jackson: Yeah, I love Nick Fury. We have done that [with the cursing]. In between takes, they'll say "'Do it the way you do it," and I just go, "Let's go kill these motherf**kers!" They just fall on the floor laughing.

Movies.com: Are you not involved in that S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show they're doing?

Jackson: So far not yet. No one has said anything to me about it. I would think, even at its worst, I would be like Charlie in Charlie's Angels -- like at least they'd let me talk to them every week and be a voice, if they won't put me in the show. I don't know yet, I need to talk to Joss [Whedon] about it.

Movies.com: Would you want to do that? Would you want to be on television?

Jackson: Sure. There's a lot of money in TV these days ... [Laughs] And there's some good TV out there, even on networks.

Movies.com: What's your favorite TV show right now?

Jackson: Right now, Homeland. That's a dope-ass show. I like Copper, on BBC TV. Sons of Anarchy. Oh, and Justified

Movies.com: And just so your fans know, you'll be in Captain America 2, and then... Guardians of the Galaxy?

Jackson: No, Cap 2, then nothing until The Avengers 2, but that's in 2014. Hopefully they'll throw me another Star Wars movie.

Movies.com: You actually want to do that, huh?

Jackson: F*ck yeah.

Movies.com: Come back as a ghost?

Jackson: Whatever. They can bring me back alive with one hand, I don't care. Just let me back in!


Django Unchained hits theaters Christmas Day.

Follow along on Twitter @ErikDavis and @Moviesdotcom.

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