INTERVIEW / RENCONTRER Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson needs no introduction. He is an incredible chameleon of an actor, a pop culture icon and the last word in cool. From the works of Spike Lee to cult favourite Pulp Fiction, and less-than-stellar B movies to the legendary Star Wars saga, the 68-year-old is more than a film star, he embodies the last 30 years of cinema, and his career has combined huge risks with pure movie-going delight. Meet the coolest man in the world. You’ve recently been promoting I’m Not Your Negro directed by Raoul Peck. You did the voiceover for this excellent documentary based on writings by and interviews with the black American author James Baldwin. As a film, it’s politically engaged but funny too. Would you say it reflects your own personality? I wouldn’t say it’s exactly a reflection of me, but I know James Baldwin has always been very meaningful to me in a really unique way. When I was younger, he was one of the voices, which young African Americans listened to and admired the most. We owe a lot to him, like our freedom to be ourselves, the idea of responding intelligently to violence, and our ability to create a self-image not tainted by racial prejudice. So it felt very natural to pay back some of the strength and love this amazing man instilled in me.
You’ve left your mark on cinema over the past 30 years, working with Quentin Tarantino, George Lucas, Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, John Mctiernan and Barbet Schroeder. How do you attract all these great directors? I don’t attract them, unfortunately. They’re great men, you have to woo them a little bit. I’ve often been lucky enough to have things in common with most of the directors I’ve worked with. I share a slightly twisted sense of humour with Quentin [Tarantino] for instance, we both love bad jokes that make everyone feel awkward. You premiered I’m Not Your Negro in Paris last summer. If you were to make a film set in Paris, whereabouts would you like to film? The next Nick Fury film, Avengers: Infinity War, has quite a few scenes in Paris, we filmed at the Saint Sulpice church, Trocadéro and the [Avenue des] Champs-elysées for example. Every morning when I got in a taxi to go to the set I went past the André Citroën Park near the riverside and the Grand Palais. It’s such a beautiful place. I’d love to just wander around there.
You became a global star in 1994 with the madcap role of Jules Winnfield, the sermon-spouting killer in cult classic Pulp Fiction. A role like that stays with you for life, right? It’s true that 20 years later, Jules is still following me around, goddamn him, everybody’s into him, other actors, fans, directors, my daughter… Everyone wants to talk to me about Jules and Pulp Fiction. Am I complaining about it? Absolutely not. I’m incredibly lucky to have been able to touch millions of people’s hearts, minds and imaginations through this character. In fact, he might even be closer to me than I thought.
You’re cinema’s coolest actor, even when you’re playing baddies. How do you stay so cool and relaxed all the time? It comes down to constant training. It’s about taking life as it comes, being nice to people and giving out good vibes, being curious, and laughing. That’s been my medicine for more than 60 years. You can see it’s paid off, right?