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INT: Sam Jackson

Apr. 28, 2005by:

Sam Jackson was one of the few people left in Hollywood that I had yet gotten a chance to meet and/or interview. My chance to finally chat up Sam "The Man" came a few weeks ago as he was in town to promote XXX: STATE OF THE UNION. Unfortunately I talked to Sam along with every single other member of the online press as well. Which led to...well, a lot of pretty retarded questions. Luckily the best guy to have around when retarded questions are flying is Sam Jackson. Quick with a what-the-f*ck-did-you-just-ask look or a witty retort, Sam was in full Bad Ass Motherf***er mode. I've cut some of the more repetitive STAR WARS questions below and a particular one, quite possibly the wackiest question I've ever heard asked of a celebrity ("What advice would you give to Latino filmmakers?" Sam's confused response? "I'm a black actor...) but for some of the more sane Q&A's, continue on...

Did you realize, in the original film, that the plan was to have revolving actors in the XXX role or did you think it was a specificVin Diesel franchise?

I had no idea. It never occurred to me and I didn't care. I was a lot more worried about my character coming back.

What do you like about the role of Augustus that drew you back for a second film?

I look at the character, like the M character [from the BOND films] who's kind of running the show and in control and sort of gets to choose the XXX characters and makes sure he knows what's going on and in this particular script, there was a bigger reveal of who he was, where he came from, the fact that he's not just a bureaucrat, he's somewhat of a warrior himself. Often he's willing to step into the line of fire and do the things that he asks the other people to do. It's fun for me to do, action pictures. I still get off on shooting guns and chasing people.

Are films like this enjoyable to make because it brings out the kid in you as youre shooting?

Yeah, totally. Its part of stuff I did with my friends in the street. We had guns, we shot at each other, we chased each other but they always said, you missed me. These kinds of pictures, you shoot somebody, the chest explodes, they fall down. It's kinda good.

Your role grew in prominence from the first film to the sequel. If there were a third do you expect it to grow even more so in that film?

Well, I guess we have to wait and see how much money this movie makes. It's all about that. Nothing to do with me. It has to do with how many people go and see a movie, how much money the movie makes. If it makes enough money, XXX 3 is on the drawing board.

Would you return for a third film?

Yeah.

Who would you like to see play the next XXX?

I don't care. I just want to be sure I'm in it.

Rappers-turned-actors tend to carry a negative stereotype. What surprised you the most about working with Cube as he rose above those stereotypes?

Nothing really. I've watched his evolution as an actor so I figured if he got into shape and did the training necessary to do all the stuff the script required him to do, then he would be able to pull it off. He has the right combination of street toughness and edge that a XXX character needs to make this thing work and he's anti-establishment enough in terms of what his music career has been that, you know, an audience will buy the fact that he's not just going to jump out and be a super-patriot immediately. As usual, we find a way or I guess Augustus Gibbons' major trait is knowing how to pick the right guy for the right job so that when that time comes, that person's willing to step across the line and go the extra mile and get the job done.

Was he attached when you signed on for this film?

No.

So you didn't know who it was going to be?

No, not at all. I just knew they were doing another XXX and my character was coming back. They didn't talk to me about who should be the next XXX or who he would be.

When filming is approaching on a project of this caliber do you have a regimen to prepare for such a role?

I go to the gym anyway. Only specific training we, well I did for this particular film was Cube and I had to go through the firing range with some Seal guys and learn how they use weapons. Everybody has their own way of shooting a gun. So if you're doing an FBI movie you've got to go to the firing range with FBI guys. When we did SWAT, we went with the SWAT guys. This time we had to go with some Seals and learn how they did what they did. It's fun. You always go out and get to shoot live weapons, you shoot at targets. You see if you can actually hit things and you become proficient with a lot more weapons than you actually own at home. But if you come into contact with them while you're running around, at least you'll know what to do.

Were there any major differences on set working with Lee Tamahori [director of XXX2] or with Rob Cohen [director of the original]?

Every director has their own different way of doing things. Lee, Lee is about a lot of the different set-ups and how things work and he does things in smaller pieces than Rob does. The general tone is kind of the same. You're doing an action picture so you're out there having fun and end up laughing a lot more than you thought you would. It's just a matter of how each director prepares the day's work. Lee does it in smaller pieces than Rob, that's all.

What elements of your personality are in your characters?

Well you know, it's really difficult to say. I really can't talk about the number of people I've actually killed in my life so I can't say that, I can't speak on that part of my real life, but every character in some particular way has small elements of who you are only because you have to use your experience and you have to tap into something that is personal to make certain things work. So there's no way that I actually can make my characters shorter than I am so that's always me and I can change my voice and I can change the temper of it but it's still my voice. The attitudes and the way that they treat other people tend to be very different from the way that I would normally treat people. Or be the person that I am. I have a sort of quirky personality, in a way, and I'm kind of cynical in a way, and all my characters are. I'm kind of outspoken or there are moments when I need to emphasize something, I can be those characters that are very emphatic. But most times the way that a character approaches the particular life that's being displayed on screen has nothing to do with who I am. The closest I've come to being, I guess, myself on screen, is I think the Zeus character on DIE HARD, just because my specific job in that movie was to be an audience member on the inside of a DIE HARD movie. I was trying to react the way Sam would react to what John McLean does if I was sitting in the audience. So the audience members would go, "that's what I'd do ... I'd say that". So, not often.

So was the STAR WARS franchise far more challenging to you as an actor for various reasons than doing something like this?

Well, yeah, because the world is very different. It's a fantastical world full of people who have special abilities that you have to be a lot more omnipotent and less vulnerable than, say, a human being because they are. They see further, they have specific powers that allow them to get into people's heads in different kinds of ways. They are involved with characters who are from different particular planets and worlds more so than in the same world you are from and everybody's experience is different. Except for the Jedi which is a whole closed society. I'm not part of a closed, well, I don't know, screen actors are I guess.

What do you say to those detractors who feel the new era of STAR WARS films dont hold up to the original trilogy?

Who are those people and what are they talking about? The people that don't like EPISODE 1 are adults who were not adults when they saw episode 4 and if you ask any, what now, I guess 12 year old kid who was 7 or 6 when they saw the first one, who their favorite character was, they'd say Jar Jar Binks because the first movie is a kid's movie, it's about a kid and gives kids an opportunity to feel like their hero. It's a kiddie movie. The next movie's a bit more teenage, teenage love, kid's voice changes and he's in love with a girl and he's trying to figure it all out. People didn't like that one too much either but there was enough action in it to satisfy the people. Hopefully this one will be dark enough and bloody enough and will wrap up all those loose ends and everybody will feel some sense of satisfaction so that when they sit down to watch all 6 of them by the time George puts all of them out, they can watch them in any order they want to. I might have felt that way about The Ewok Adventure. I didn't say that (laughs).

The generation that's growing up right now, 6- or 7-year-olds will appreciate these films more?

Yeah. They'll have a home, an idea of how all this fits together and how they like them in terms of what the sequence is. For us, who were young adults when the first one came out, and we went through all the others. Some of the others I didn't like either but it was Star Wars you know. It's always going to be Star Wars. Years and years and years down the line, out of all the things that I've done, if they don't remember anything else I've done, that movie will be studied, or that particular series will be studied as a watershed moment in film making that kind of changed the way films got made, it changed the way films got marketed, it changed the way a lot of people approach to making movies about outer space and it brought a lot of people into the cinematic world to make different kinds of movies that they started out there but they ended up making a lot of different kinds of movies.

I read that you one day wanted to do a slasher film. Would you like to play the hero or the villain?

That hadn't occurred to me. I just want to be in one.

So you don't care if you kill or get killed?

No, that's never a concern. I like horror movies. The kinds of movies that I watched and enjoyed are the kinds of movies that I tend to want to see myself in.

Youve got a few movies coming out including FREEDOMLAND and FLIGHT 121. Can you tell us a little bit about those?

FREEDOMLAND I'm shooting now. FLIGHT 121 hasnt started yet. Let me see FREEDOMLAND we're like two weeks into shooting the film, me and Julianne Moore. Its the story of a young mother who gets carjacked in the projects and her kid is in the car and her brother's a cop in the next town so they descend on the projects, which I had to find a car and a kid. The brother and his police cohorts are jacking everybody in the projects and creating a hot racial atmosphere. So it's a pretty dark and crazy movie. FLIGHT 121, aka SNAKES ON A PLANE...[shrugs his shoulders and laughs]. That says everything about it. There it is. I like scary movies. The scariest thing you could think of is a crate load of poisonous snakes getting released into the atmosphere on a plane, poisonous snakes.

How do you feel about the recent success streak of African-American lead films at the box-office?

It just proved the fact that there's an audience for films that have an African-American theme and/or African-American stars on it. First of all, COACH CARTER and ARE WE THERE YET, HITCH, DIARY [OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN], then GUESS WHO, then BEAUTY SHOP. And it's just a validation of the fact that there's a huge movie-going audience out there that not only wants to see films that are about African-Americans but we are viable in a box office sort of way that crosses over and not just in African-Americans but in general audiences. It's about good stories, good films and people having a good time when they go to the movies and telling other people they do. Because the majority of people who went to the films don't read reviews because if you read reviews of all those films, you wouldn't have gone to see them.

Source: JoBlo.com

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