Sa­muel L. Jack­son steps into a ‘peculiar’ world

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LIVING - By Amy Longs­dorf For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

Sa­muel L. Jack­son is one of the busiest ac­tors in Hol­ly­wood, with roles in at least a half a dozen up­com­ing movies, in­clud­ing the muchan­tic­i­pated se­quels to “XXX” and “The Avengers.”

But noth­ing draws him to a project like the lure of a film­maker he ad­mires.

The 3D fan­tasy “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Chil­dren” nabbed Jack­son’s at­ten­tion be­fore he ever read the script thanks to direc­tor Tim Bur­ton, who ranks as one of the ac­tor’s fa­vorite helmers.

”[My agents] told me Tim Bur­ton wanted me to do this par­tic­u­lar project and then they sent it to me and I read it,” re­calls Jack­son. “I pretty much said ‘yes’ be­fore I even got a hold of a script. ‘Tim Bur­ton?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘He wants me?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Okay, I’m good.’”

As far as Jack­son is con­cerned, Bur­ton can do no wrong.

“I liked his ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie,” says Jack­son. “I liked ‘Ed­ward Scis­sorhands.’ There’s not a lot he’s done that I don’t like. His cine­matic skill is just so ev­i­dent.

“I like the way you leave a Tim Bur­ton film feel­ing like you’ve lived in some al­ter­nate re­al­ity with its own set of rules and reg­u­la­tions. He makes you be­lieve it, and that abil­ity of his has al­ways fas­ci­nated me.”

In­deed, Bur­ton’s best movies are fan­tasies which de­pict mag­i­cal al­ter­nate re­al­i­ties. Think “Ed­ward Scis­sorhands,” “Bat­man,” “Sleepy Hol­low,” “Alice In Won­der­land,” “Char­lie and The Cho­co­late Fac­tory” and “Dark Shad­ows.”

Add to that list the time-trip­ping “Miss Peregrine,” which is based on a best seller by Ran­som Riggs. Asa But­ter­field stars as a teenager who finds him­self in a spe­cial world pop­u­lated with chil­dren who pos­sess ex­tra­or­di­nary pow­ers, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to float into the sky, spark fires and be­come in­vis­i­ble.

Even the kids’ over­seer — the tit­u­lar Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) — is gifted. She can trans­form into a fal­con when­ever she pleases. Still, it’s But­ter­field’s char­ac­ter who pos­sesses the se­cret power that will al-

low him to bat­tle Bar­ron (Jack­son), a shape-shift­ing bad­die who wants to de­vour the young­sters’ eyes in hopes of achiev­ing im­mor­tal­ity.

Speak­ing of eyes, Jack­son spent most of the film wear­ing white con­tacts. It was a look which gave the shock­haired, strangely-toothed Bar­ron an oth­er­worldly look.

“The [con­tacts] are ir­ri­tat­ing for about 10 min­utes and then you get used to them,” re­ports Jack­son. “Then, after about three hours, you go, ‘Okay, that’s enough. That’s

enough!”

For most of the film, Jack­son, 67, is sur­rounded by co-stars who are decades younger than he is. It was a dy­namic which sat well with the vet­eran ac­tor.

“The kids were all great,” says Jack­son, the fa­ther of a daugh­ter, 34, with long­time wife LaTanya Richard­son. “By the time I showed up, they had been work­ing to­gether for about six weeks so they knew each other very well, and they had this great re­la­tion­ship and had es­tab­lished how they in­ter­acted with each other.

“I think the great thing was when I walked on set, and I had this hair and teeth and the eyes and stuff, they

all just looked at me like, ‘Oh, yeah!’

“They were just ready to play with me. They were never afraid of me, which was great. When they were act­ing afraid in the movie, they were act­ing be­cause most times they would just jump on me and take self­ies. They were funny.”

As much as Jack­son en­joyed his re­la­tion­ship with his co-stars, he was even more ap­pre­cia­tive of Bur­ton, who lived up to the ac­tor’s ex­pec­ta­tions. In fact, Jack­son says Bur­ton re­minded him of Quentin Tarantino, one of Jack­son’s most fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tors on pro­jects as var­ied as “Pulp Fic­tion” and “The Hate­ful

Eight.”

“When you fin­ish do­ing a scene for Tim or Quentin, it’s like a big ex­cla­ma­tion and they’re clap­ping their hands,” says Jack­son. “Tim skips around. He says, ‘That was amaz­ing. That was great. I didn’t see it that way but yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!’

“He’ll go, ‘More of that, more of that, more of that.’ It’s en­cour­ag­ing and it’s great. It makes you want to give more to him than to some­body who goes, ‘Yeah, that was fine. Cut.’

As far as Jack­son is con­cerned, the big­gest chal­lenge of play­ing Bar­ron was try­ing to bring some hu­man touches to a pre­dom­i­nantly evil fig­ure.

“In my mind, Bar­ron was more in­ter­ested in re­gain­ing his hu­man­ity and im­mor­tal­ity than [in be­ing mon­strous],” says Jack­son.

“For me, it was more about cre­at­ing some­one that an au­di­ence could look at, and not al­ways be fear­ful of. [I wanted au­di­ences to] see the flashes of hu­man­ity in him be­fore that mon­ster takes hold of him.

“You can spend a whole movie be­ing a mon­ster but that’s not in­ter­est­ing to an au­di­ence. It helps and it shocks them when you [show a sense of hu­mor] be­cause it’s like, ‘Oh well, I didn’t know he could go that far. I didn’t know that was go­ing to hap­pen there.’ Or au­di­ences

think, ‘What trig­gered that?’ It kind of keeps ev­ery­body off bal­ance.”

In ad­di­tion to giv­ing Jack­son the op­por­tu­nity to work with one of his fa­vorite filmmakers, “Miss Peregrine” also car­ries a theme which the ac­tor is happy to whole­heart­edly en­dorse.

“I think the mes­sage here is to em­brace your unique­ness,” says Jack­son. “The movie [is say­ing] that ev­ery­one has a con­tri­bu­tion to make to this so­ci­ety and the more con­fi­dent you are in your­self and in your unique­ness, the bet­ter it will be for the good of all.

“It takes unique peo­ple to cre­ate a di­verse and in­ter­est­ing world. I’m all for it.”

PHOTO BY LEAH GALLO

Eva Green por­trays Miss Peregrine, who over­sees a mag­i­cal place that is threat­ened by pow­er­ful en­e­mies.

PHOTO BY EVAN AGOSTINI/INVISION/AP

Ac­tor Sa­muel L. Jack­son.

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