Samuel L. Jackson steps into a ‘peculiar’ world
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
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
“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.”
Eva Green portrays Miss Peregrine, who oversees a magical place that is threatened by powerful enemies.
Actor Samuel L. Jackson.