Interview: Samuel L. Jackson

For the past year and a half, no matter what film Samuel L. Jackson was selling, he would talk about his upcoming film, Snakes on a Plane. He said the title said it all and he was fighting to stop the studio from changing it to the more generic Pacific Flight 121. Now that all the hype has caught on, Jackson is sure to point out that it wasn’t just the title Snakes on a Plane that caught his interest.

“I did this movie because it was the kind of movie I would have gone to see when I was a kid,” he said. “The Internet rumor about me taking a job without reading the script is sort of true, but not in the way they say it. I read in the trades that Ronny Yu was doing a movie called Snakes on a Plane so I e-mailed him to see what it was. Well, it’s a horror movie about poisonous snakes on a plane. Oh wow, can I be in it? For real? Yeah, for real. That was the beginning of it all. New Line didn’t believe it. They called my agent. Agent said, I don’t know. My manager said, ‘Yeah, he probably said yes.’”

As an acclaimed, Oscar nominated actor, Samuel L. Jackson has never considered himself above fun movies. “All movies aren’t fun. Some are hard work. You try to do something and convey a set of emotions that have to do with some real life kind of stuff. That’s a popcorn movie. We know what it is. I don’t have to go in and worry about my motivations. Fucking snakes all over the plane. That’s scary. Let’s go. Scream. Yell. Let’s look dire. Oh my god, somebody got bit. Oh, snakes gonna bit me!”

The actual filming of Snakes on a Plane was easy for Jackson, since they never put the star in any real danger. “I never really had to do anything with them. We didn’t see them. We had all the rubber snakes and the CGI snakes. The second unit had the real snakes. Plus, real snakes are kind of lazy. You bring them on set, they don’t want to be bothered with the light. They’re always trying to crawl into somewhere there’s no light. Get inside a seat cushion or something. There’s really no such thing as a snake trainer. [We had a] snake handler. You cannot say action to a snake and they do stuff. You can’t make them sit up and roll over. You can’t make them do anything, really. They did provoke the poisonous snakes on second unit. We would see them doing stuff like that. We would watch that on a monitor. They had an albino cobra on second unit that they had striking a seat one day. Frightening. Very frightening.”

If fans want to analyze the body of Jackson’s work and find a place for Snakes on a Plane, Jackson knows where they can stick it. “It’s between Freedomland and Home of the Brave. Come on. It’s an entertainment film. It’s in the category of Deep Blue Sea and The Man and a lot of those movies that didn’t make a lot of money, but people saw on video and discovered and liked. This is going to different. I think people are gonna go and see this movie. I feel sorry for all those people that are going through that whole trip of ‘Why would Samuel Jackson do something like this?’ and ‘It’s lowbrow.’ It’s a movie. People go to movies on Saturday to get away from the war in Iraq and taxes and election news and pedophiles online and just go and have some fun and I like doing movies that are fun.”

Jackson took Snakes on a Plane right to the fans when he attended the San Diego Comic-Con presentation. If he had his way, he would have just walked the floor. “I was on the floor this morning before anybody came in for like 10 minutes. Then I couldn’t stay because they were letting people in early so I had to leave. It’s kind of bad for me because I’m kind of down with all this stuff. I love comic books and I love anime. It’s kind of like being in a crack house with no money.”

Had he the freedom to roam the Con incognito, Jackson has his favorites he’d check out. “I might see what’s going on at the Dark Horse table because I used to read Dark Horse comics a lot. They don’t have a lot of stuff. I actually saw one ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ thing down there this morning, but I actually have the original 37-40 comic books.”

Jackson might have had time to express his inner fanboy were he not in such a rush to get back to work. He only had one day he could commit to Comic-Con and that had to be spent doing press. “They know they have limited time with me. That’s why I work so much because when I work I don’t have to do this shit. I’m going to work Sunday so they have to get all they can out of me now because I’m doing a movie. Once I’m in movie mode I’m untouchable.”

Next up for Samuel L. Jackson is the Stephen King movie 1408, then Jumpers. He’s also involved in the television cartoon Afro Samurai. “I’m not done yet. I just did the preliminary voicing so they could start the animation. They’re only done two-and-a-half of the episodes right now.”

Jackson helped develop the cartoon. “It’s great to be able to put something out there that you think people will be interested in and it happened to combine a lot of different things that I like. I like cartoons. I like samurai stories. I like hip-hop. And I like the idea of a post-apocalyptic world where all these things are going on and Bob’s a really smart kid, Bob Okazaki, the developer. He and I, we have an interesting kind of link. Even thought he doesn’t speak very much English and I speak no Japanese, he and I communicate. It’s kind of bizarre, but it works out. Being able to do the show’s a blessing and hopefully now that we’re almost done with, the live action script, I think we have a first draft of that. I actually met this kid last night that I’m a big fan of, kid who directed Azumi and Versus. Hopefully we can get him involved in the project. It would be great.”

Snakes on a Plane opens Friday.