Samuel L. Jackson, co-star of the "In My Country" Movie!
After spending the 1980s playing a series of drug addict and character parts, Samuel L. Jackson emerged in the 1990s as one of the most prominent and well-respected actors in Hollywood. Work on a number of projects, both high-profile and low-key, has given Jackson ample opportunity to display an ability marked by both remarkable versatility and smooth intelligence. Born December 21, 1948, in Washington, D.C., Jackson was raised by his mother and grandparents in Chattanooga, TN. He attended Atlanta's Morehouse College, where he was co-founder of Atlanta's black-oriented Just Us Theater (the name of the company was taken from a famous Richard Pryor routine). Jackson arrived in New York in 1977, beginning what was to be a prolific career in film, television, and on the stage. After a plethora of character roles of varying sizes, Jackson was discovered by the public in the role of the hero's tempestuous, drug-addict brother in 1991's Jungle Fever, directed by another Morehouse College alumnus, Spike Lee. Jungle Fever won Jackson a special acting prize at the Cannes Film Festival and thereafter his career soared. Confronted with sudden celebrity, Jackson stayed grounded by continuing to live in the Harlem brownstone where he'd resided since his stage days.
1994 was a particularly felicitous year for Jackson; while his appearances in Jurassic Park (1993) and Menace II Society (1993) were still being seen in second-run houses, he co-starred with John Travolta as a mercurial hit man in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination. His portrayal of an embittered father in the more low-key Fresh earned him additional acclaim. The following year, Jackson landed third billing in the big-budget Die Hard With a Vengeance and also starred in the adoption drama Losing Isaiah. His versatility was put on further display in 1996 with the release of five very different films: The Long Kiss Goodnight, a thriller in which he co-starred with Geena Davis as a private detective; an adaptation of John Grisham's A Time to Kill, which featured him as an enraged father driven to murder; Steve Buscemi's independent Trees Lounge; The Great White Hype, a boxing satire in which the actor played a flamboyant boxing promoter; and Hard Eight, the directorial debut of Paul Thomas Anderson.
After the relative quiet of 1997, which saw Jackson again collaborate with Tarantino in the critically acclaimed Jackie Brown and play a philandering father in the similarly acclaimed Eve's Bayou (which also marked his debut as a producer), the actor lent his talents to a string of big-budget affairs (an exception being the 1998 Canadian film The Red Violin). Aside from an unbilled cameo in Out of Sight (1998), Jackson was featured in leading roles in The Negotiator (1998), Sphere (1998), and Deep Blue Sea (1999). His prominence in these films added confirmation of his complete transition from secondary actor to leading man, something that was further cemented by a coveted role in what was perhaps the most anticipated film of the decade, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), the first prequel to George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy. Jackson followed through on his leading man potential with a popular remake of Gordon Parks' seminal 1971 blaxploitation flick Shaft. Despite highly publicized squabbling between Jackson and director John Singleton, the film was a successful blend of homage, irony, and action; it became one of the rare character-driven hits in the special effects-laden summer of 2000.
From hard-case Shaft to fragile as glass, Jackson once again hoodwinked audiences by playing against his usual super-bad persona in director M. Night Shyamalan's eagerly anticipated follow-up to The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable (2000). In his role as Bruce Willis' brittle, frail antithesis, Jackson proved that though he can talk trash and break heads with the best of them, he's always compelling to watch no matter what the role may be. Next taking a rare lead as a formerly successful pianist turned schizophrenic on the trail of a killer in the little-seen The Caveman's Valentine, Jackson turned in yet another compelling and sympathetic performance. Following an instance of road rage opposite Ben Affleck in Changing Lanes (2002), Jackson stirred film geek controversy upon wielding a purple lightsaber in the eagerly anticipated Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. Despite rumors that the color of the lightsaber may have had some sort of mythical undertone, Jackson laughingly assured fans that it was a simple matter of his suggesting to Lucas that a purple lightsaber would simply "look cool," though he was admittedly surprised to see that Lucas had obliged him Jackson eventually saw the final print. A few short months later filmgoers would find Jackson recruiting a muscle-bound Vin Diesel for a dangerous secret mission in the spy thriller XXX.
Sam Jackson Snakes onto 'Flight'
Samuel L. Jackson, one of the busiest men in Hollywood, has signed on for yet another film.
The 56-year-old actor will star in the New Line thriller "Flight 121," report news sources.
The project centers on an FBI agent (Jackson) whose goal is to bring a mob boss to justice. He puts a witness in protective custody and transports him on a commercial flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the wicked mob boss has loaded the cargo hold with a slew of deadly snakes.
The film was previously known as the much more delightful and descriptive title "Snakes on a Plane."
"Cellular" director David Ellis will begin shooting in May.
Jackson next reprises his roles in the upcoming "XXX" sequel and the final "Star Wars" installment "Revenge of the Sith," which will be released April 29 and May 19, respectively.
Samuel L. Jackson: Bad Mutha-Coacher
Aiming to put the "student" back in "student-athlete," Richmond, California, high school basketball coach Ken Carter set rules that placed good grades before good plays. With his playoff-bound team struggling academically, he benched them, setting off a storm of irate parents. The real-life incident is the inspiration for the movie "Coach Carter," and star Samuel L. Jackson sat down recently with MTV to discuss the sports-movie genre and where "Coach Carter" fits into it.
MTV: Why do you think audiences love sports movies so much?
Samuel L. Jackson: Well, I guess they feed into our sports fantasies and things that we kind of want to do and things we wish we could do, to things we may have done in the past — you know, reliving glory days. And everybody likes stories about underdogs that overcome. We sit at home every Sunday and we watch. We cheer for our teams. And when you go into these particular films, you find out enough about these particular guys on these particular teams that you feel like that's the team you cheer for. So we get involved in 'em easily.
MTV: What are some of your favorite sports movies? Do you have a favorite football movie?
Jackson: "Rocky," we all love the "Rocky" movies. I loved 'em. Wow, what's my favorite football movie? Uh, "North Dallas Forty."
MTV: What about basketball movies?
Jackson: I hadn't seen a lot of them. ... Everybody talks about "Hoosiers," but, well, I grew up during segregation in the South ... so the only player I ever saw was Pete Maravich. So when I watch "Hoosiers," it's kind of like I don't relate to it in that kind of way because there's no brothers on the basketball teams. How can it be basketball, you know?
MTV: Do you think there's a formula that all great sports movies have?
Jackson: Well, you gotta have the kid on the team who's a rebel. You gotta have the kid on the team who's kind of, I guess sort of nerdy, who all of a sudden blossoms into a good player. You gotta have a coach who has a specific set of goals that he's trying to get the kids to meet. And he has to find a way to relay that message to the team. And you have to have a rival, a sports rival that that team is particularly afraid of or hadn't been able to beat or has a real beef with to make the final game a game that everybody wants to see in the movie.
MTV: It seems like there's certain scenes every sports movie has.
Jackson: That whole slow-motion basket thing — are they gonna win the game, or are they not going to win the game? There's that one. There's the theme of them being a team in total chaos that finally comes together and embraces the coach's philosophy. I think the real great scene in this particular film is when I kicked this kid off the team and he has this impossible task to accomplish to get back on the team. And all of a sudden, he's about not to make the team and all the other players decide to take on part of his responsibility. And it creates a whole sense of team spirit that the audience kind of grabs real quick.
MTV: Why do you think those kinds of movies are so popular?
Jackson: Well, sports is a real viable job choice for kids now. So kids focus on becoming the best athlete they could possibly be. And these films embody something that lets them know that there are guys that make it, there are guys that don't make it. So it's in your best interest to take advantage of the opportunity that sports affords you, [but to also] give yourself another chance at life somewhere else [besides sports]. That message needs to be relayed to these kids because there are so many kids that don't make it. And that's not the end of life. Life goes on.
MTV: It seems right now that pro sports has suffered some black eyes lately, what with steroid use in baseball and brawling with fans in basketball.
Jackson: Well, sports has always been sort of the same. You know, we hold up guys on pedestals that have average lives. I mean, they're just like us in a lot of ways, except we see them do their job every single day. It's kind of like me. ... I'm actually very ordinary, except people get to pay their money to come watch me work. The same way that we go to McDonald's — we don't care about the guy behind the counter, but if he was doing something special, we'd pay our money to go watch him cook that hamburger. So the seedy side of what these people do seems to be the newsworthy things. The guys who go to the hospitals, seeing the kids in the cancer wards, or the guys who are donating the money to kids' educational funds or collecting toys for underprivileged kids for Christmas is not a big story. It's a much bigger story to say, "Well, this guy's cheating because he takes this particular drug." Or "These guys are out of control because they went into the stands and beat up some fans." But fans are out of control, too, because they have expectations or they think they could get away with things that they shouldn't be able to get away with. So it's a very double-edged sword. We all walk the line, and we want them to be better human beings than they actually are, when they are just guys who have a special ability in one discipline.
MTV: There's so much happening at once in the sports world, this seems like the perfect time for a positive story like this.
Jackson: Things happen in bunches. ... Last year, there was all this college stuff that was going on — kids not going to class and people taking tests for them and not giving them money. You know, the race car circuit has its own thing about guys bumping other guys. Horse racing has its own set of doping things, you know, jockeys doing whatever they do. So there's always something, and they all come in bunches. It so happens that now we're dealing with two of the biggest sports in America, so it seems like a much bigger thing than it actually is.
MTV: Do you think movies like this show the purity of sport?
Jackson: They should. But in my opinion, they're stories about something that most people relate to in a very specific kind of way. And it gives them an opportunity to be on the inside of it, the same way we go on the inside of the action movie and feel safe. You know, like riding a roller coaster, you strap yourself in and take the ride. You live their lives. You go through the triumphs, the defeats, you see how their minds work and you're able to leave the theater and kind of, you know, say you've been a part of something. And that's what storytelling is really supposed to be. There are really good stories that you wanna be a part of.
MTV: What is it about basketball that is cinematic? What makes it a good subject for a movie?
Jackson: Oh, the running, the jumping, the dribbling, the excitement of the people in the stands watching the game. The ebb and flow, you know, because basketball has a mind of its own in the inside of the game. And watching the reaction of the players, the fans and the coaches to what's going on in one particular moment and how you make adjustments as the game goes along.
MTV: What's the role of a coach in the sports-movie genre?
Jackson: Well, he's the guy who has the philosophy of how he wants to approach the game, about how he feels about the game, how he feels about the players that he engages, and how the players relate to him. There are guys who are villainous coaches, like in "North Dallas Forty." There are guys who are loving coaches like some of the baseball movies we've seen. There are guys who relate the game to life in another kind of way. My particular character has a thought that basketball is a privilege that you get to use if you do specific other things that will lead you to a way in life that supposedly affords you a better life. So he's a stickler for education. If you can't think, you can't play basketball, which is his theory. I don't know if it's true, because we see guys, you know, who play basketball that I don't think are particularly great thinkers.
MTV: What is the main message of "Coach Carter"?
Jackson: Well, the message is that basketball is a way to get you to a better life if you use the educational aspect of what the game is. If you go to college and somebody's giving you a four-year ride, you need to take advantage of the educational opportunity that's presented there, not just the basketball opportunity. Because anything can happen. You can get hurt. You know, a better player comes along. You get benched. All kinds of things can [end] your basketball career, but nobody can take your education from you.
MTV: There's a real strong father-figure thing going on in this movie.
Jackson: Yeah, well, I have a son who's on the team, and that's our relationship. And we don't talk very much about the guys not having fathers, but I guess it's kind of accepted that you don't see a lot of men at those meetings talking about their kids playing basketball — there's maybe two. So I guess he becomes a father figure in a sense for the majority of the other players on the team.
[Warning: Skip the next question to avoid a possible spoiler.]
MTV: This team doesn't actually win the championship. That's different.
Jackson: I don't know that that's particularly true, because they actually did [in real life]. So for dramatic purposes, I guess, we lost. But the coach was kind of, I don't know, [saying,] "We actually won!" You know, he was kind of upset about that. But the basic statement seems to be that you don't have to win the game to be a winner in life, and that's what the message of this movie is supposed to be: that the game is a sideline. You know, that life goes on. So when you lose a game, take the positives out of that and move on to the next thing, and I actually think that's a better message. You know, we hear "no" a lot. And there are always obstacles and blockades keeping us from our goals. You either go through them or around them. Sometimes you get stopped by 'em, but it's only momentary.
MTV: How realistic is the ball-playing in this movie?
Jackson: Very much so. These kids went to basketball camp and they had practices to learn plays every day. They worked very hard to play those games. The actors did that, and the other players were recruited kids from all over California that coaches knew that were the basketball consultants. So a lot of those kids could really ball. A couple of kids had to learn. A lot of the kids were on the bench on my team that were, you know, high school All-Americans. [One asked me,] "Do I need to take advantage of the film or do I need to go and play basketball and make some money?" I said, "Go make some money and come back and your agent will take care of the rest of it."
MTV: Were there any trampolines used for dunks? Were rims lowered or anything like that?
Jackson: No rims, no trampolines. Sometimes it took eight, nine takes to make that three-pointer, you know, so there was a lot of laughing and joking about that, and these guys played a lot of ball between takes. It was a difficult shoot. They were going full-speed and playing some good ball.
MTV: What was it like being the coach of those kids?
Jackson: It's totally fun playing the coach; I had a great time with them. They had a good sense of humor and were hardworking. And they listen. I had a great time just being on the sidelines, kind of feeling like I was in a real game. Sometimes the tension was high enough that it felt like we actually were playing a real game. A lot of the extras [in the crowd] got into it because they didn't know the plays were set. And they were kind of awed by the fact that these kids could actually run, jump and dunk. It was great.
MTV: What do you know about the real coach Carter?
Jackson: Well, he was around all the time, and before we started to shoot, I actually went to some high school basketball games with him. We watched some games and a couple of other kinds of basketball games. We talked a lot about what he did in Richmond, and how this whole thing played out. He was more or less in awe of the fact that someone was shooting his life story, in a way, and I would ask him from time to time if he felt like I was being honest and true to what he was trying to do, and he'd be like, "Yeah, yeah, it's great." So it was great.
MTV: Have you heard about what's been going on in Richmond in the last year or so?
Jackson: At some point toward the end of our shoot, they eliminated all high school sports in Richmond because they couldn't afford it. I think now coach Carter and some other people have gone and raised enough money to start the sports programs again.
MTV: So it's not like everything was cool in Richmond.
Jackson: Oh, no, like we said, life goes on. The negative thing was they couldn't afford to continue the high school sports program. So all the kids were having to disperse and go to other places. The upside now is that hopefully this film will create a certain kind of awareness, and people will understand what Ken was trying to do and institute programs that will allow those kids to learn and play and do all the things that kids should be able to do in a learning environment.
MTV: Could this be called the male equivalent of a chick flick?
Jackson: I guess that could be true in a certain kind of way. You know, guys sit there and they relate to things that happen to them on the court or the dream you have of hitting the winning shot at the end of the game. I mean, everybody's had that — score the winning touchdown. And guys get kind of full up when they watch this stuff.
Sam always has time for tee
Samuel L.Jackson is late. Ensconced in the Dorchester Hotel with the nation's press ready to meet him, he has been busy checking out the hotel's indoor golf facilities. Little surprise really, as an avid player he participates in pro-am tournaments all over the world. When he does sweep into the room he is charm personified, clad in black with his trademark Kangol cap and looks a good ten years younger than his actual age of 53. He is one of the more affable Hollywood superstars, always ready with a joke and happy to answer any question thrown at him.
He's in town to promote his new picture Changing Lanes. It's a step away from the usual cool dude roles that Jackson has cornered the market in, ever since he became an instant star on the back of Pulp Fiction. Changing Lanes sees Jackson as Doyle Gipson, a man whose marriage is breaking down and whose battle against alcoholism sees him attending daily meetings. When he has a car accident with young lawyer Ben Affleck on his way to a court hearing to save his marriage, he is forced to take action in a way that gives new meaning to the phrase road rage.
Gipson is meek, slightly oddballish and a far cry from the usual tough guy roles he chooses. His battle with alcohol must also have been an interesting challenge as Jackson had his own well-charted problems and now doesn't touch a drop. He admits the complexities of the characters drew him to the film. "The character is a bit more complex, and there is a reality base there that is very different from the fanciful world of something like Shaft. It was a bit like the days of theatre when I had to sit down and analyse my character to find out who he was and where he was going."
He also confesses that he drew on his own experiences to portray the effect alcohol has on his character's life. "I guess the worst day I have had was when I had to stand up in rehab in front of my wife and daughter and say Hi, my name is Sam and I am an addict." A couple of the scenes from the film are set in an AA class but his trickiest scene was when Doyle goes to a bar to order a whisky. "When we did the first take, the bartender grabbed a bottle and poured me a real drink and all of a sudden Jack Daniels wafted up into my nostrils and down my throat. I hadn't been that close to a drink in 12 years."
But Jackson is happy to change tune and debunk some of the myths of the coolest man in Hollywood. Not only does he like to do his own shopping, but he also cooks at home (hot dogs being a speciality, he admits with a wry smile.) And he has plenty of work on the horizon: with Star Wars and XXX sequels on the agenda we'll be seeing him a lot more over the next few years. After all ,with 104 titles to his credit this is one of the hardest working men in Hollywood. But he'll always have time to fit in some golf.
Samuel L. Jackson's charisma is the only thing keeping this film from an air ball
Though a successful businessman in his rough Californian inner-city neighborhood, Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) accepts a request to coach his ailing high school alma mater basketball team. Seeing a group of thugged-out, uneducated boys in front of him, Carter begins to shape young men out of these ruffians through education, lessons on respect, and important basketball fundamentals.
The changes are seen immediately, with the basketball team dominating their opponents and enjoying their newfound fame. However, once the squad loses sight of their academic goals, Carter stops the season, which enrages the locals and sheds light on the importance of education over urban hoop dreams.
Complaining of predictability is not permitted when viewing "Coach Carter." This is a film ("inspired by" a true story) based solely around known quantities, and it quests to carry out every last cliche imaginable -- but you should already know that going in. Predictability isn't an inherently evil thing, but when it's delivered without heart and soul, the result can be cinematically crippling. "Coach Carter" is a film without much soul, but it certainly doesn't lack in the heart department, even if it's sold with lethargic delivery.
It's Samuel L. Jackson's commanding lead performance that takes "Carter" to heights the thuddingly insipid screenplay will not allow for the rest of the production. Jackson is playing below his strengths here, but his charisma and presence is exactly what the film needs to keep its head about water. "Carter" is a film stuffed with vital messages about the improvement of bleak lives, and while the vessels for these messages are poorly arranged by the filmmakers, they do strike an effective and long overdue chord with the urban crowd.
It's tough to fault "Carter" for stressing education and self-esteem, two entirely important themes in the movie, and the film even goes so far as to address the use of the dreaded N-word in everyday hip-hop speak. This is all applause-worthy.
Director Thomas Carter (the dreadful "Save the Last Dance") isn't exactly sure what to do with the downtime on his hands between the sermonizing, and that's where "Carter" derails in a big way. If you can believe it, the picture runs a whopping 140 minutes, and for no good reason either. Carter layers on considerable screentime for some of the player roles, and to give singer and newcomer actress Ashanti something to do (she plays a pregnant girlfriend), but oddly, considering the film's luxurious running time, he doesn't clear much space for Coach Carter's personal life, or even the majority of the basketball squad -- odd for a film about teamwork.
The direction is wildly uneven, hitting an all time low with an uncalled for sequence that finds the team in an extremely cartoonish Caucasian suburb getting high and having sex with white girls. How this scene fits into the overall story is something maybe Carter could explain to me one day. For now, it's a reprehensible departure in a film supposedly about values and respect.
Yes, there is the "big game" against the dreaded rivals, Carter's important speech to the school board, a violent revolt from the basketball-loving community to Carter's lockouts, educational tough love, the hood-rat gunshot victim, and the power of good grades. "Coach Carter" might be poisonously derivative, but if you can claw your way through some ugly material and shoddy direction, there are some good messages here that can be warmly received.
Stars set to shine in new Gervais series
Screen stars Samuel L Jackson, Ben Stiller and Kate Winslet have been recruited by British comic Ricky Gervais to feature in his eagerly-awaited new series Extras.
The Office creator and star approached the celebrities last year with his co-writer Stephen Merchant before they started work on the scripts because they didn't want to risk writing parts for stars who hadn't committed to the project.
Gervais said: "We have to write the scripts especially around them. There would be no point wasting a year writing a script for someone and then asking them."
Samuel L. Jackson holds court
Actor plays the determined, forthright 'Coach Carter'
Samuel L. Jackson is flippant, brushing off his expansive film career, and cool-guy image.
His casual clothes fit the attitude: black running jacket, jeans, white sneaks and just a hint of bling in a diamond-ringed watch and a dog tag with his initials around his neck. His nearly impervious ego is surprising, but with nearly 80 films under his belt, he doesn't really need to care what people think of him.
With Jackson's articulate nature, along with a graying mustache and glasses, he could pass for a teacher, maybe one who taught How to Be Hip 101.
The 56-year-old actor's latest film, "Coach Carter," is based on the real-life story of Ken Carter, a basketball coach in an inner-city high school in Richmond, California. Carter benched his whole team because some varsity players weren't academically performing up to standards he set in a contract.
Jackson's no fool. He knows his movie isn't going to elicit any big change in how education is generally deplored and athletics revered in schools, but he's OK with it. He's happy as long as a few kids see the film and decide they want to study more, or figure out that an education is something invaluable.
Q: What did you think of Carter when you heard about him?
SAMUEL L. JACKSON: I thought it was a refreshing change from always hearing about winning at any cost. I liked that about what he was doing, putting the idea out there that education is worth something, that it's important. That it will get you somewhere. And when the movie idea came my way, I thought it was socially relevant.
Q: Do you agree with his methods?
JACKSON: Sure, in some ways. Somewhere along the way we lost the idea of a "student-athlete." They have become "athlete-students." But winning on the floor is a reward for doing well in the classroom. If you don't go to class you can still play ball, but you get hurt, maybe you don't run the ball as fast anymore ... what have you got left? An education is something that can't be taken away.
Q: What do you think about the idea that inner-city kids are set up to fail?
JACKSON: That's true. It's the whole idea that if you show up, you pass on. It's also that they need to see there's an upside to being smart, not just being athletic and hip. I don't think teachers are living up to the standards they should be. They tend to service the kids who pay attention, they don't want to deal with the kids that don't get the grades or that have the problems or that act out. In the city schools, they're also looking out for themselves and their well-being.
Q: I have some teacher friends that wouldn't be too happy to hear you say that.
JACKSON: I have teacher friends too, and they are goal-oriented and good at motivating their students, and will work with the kids that need the extra help instead of ignoring them, but I think that's the minority.
Q: Was there any instrumental teacher, or coach, when you were growing up?
JACKSON: I think people knew who I was because of my family, and they held me to a higher standard because they knew where I came from.
'Funny how fame goes'
Q: Do you feel like you have to be a role model because of your fame?
JACKSON: No. I think I need to be a responsible human being, and do things I believe in, and I help out people but I don't do that publicly. It's not my responsibility as an actor to tell you who to vote for, or what cause to believe in or who to give money to. It makes me crazy to hear people in my profession preach about that sort of thing.
Q: But you are pretty socially active, and you have been since college, right?
JACKSON: Ha. Yes. Where are you going with this?
Q: Well, I read in 1969 that you held some board members hostage at Morehouse College and got expelled for it.
JACKSON: I grew up in segregation in Chattanooga. So when I got to college, and Morehouse is a predominantly African-American school, there were no African-Americans on the board, and no student representation. So we solicited to have that put in place and no one would listen. We locked some of them up inside for a few days.
And now, they have student representation and African-American board members. And I went back and graduated. Now, of course, my hands are imprinted in the cement. Funny how fame goes.
Q: Do you think students would do that today?
JACKSON: I think it was indicative of what kind of people we were. We thought what we said made a difference. I don't know if people think that anymore. But I bet if the draft was reinstated or something people would start talking, start doing something. It's a shame it takes something so extreme.
Supporting the theater
Q: You started your career in the theater?
JACKSON: Yes, I worked on lots of plays. You get immediate gratification in the theater, applause. Also you get to do something from beginning to end, you feel accomplished. It amazes me when I hear some of my colleagues have never been in a play. I'm like: Where'd you learn to act? You don't know how to piece things all together unless you have acted in the theater.
Q: But you like doing movies the best?
JACKSON: Well, when I was young I thought theater was like the mailroom. TV was like getting an office, and the movies, the big screen, that was like running the company.
Q: You had some trouble along the way with drugs?
JACKSON: Yeah, when I was doing the drinking and the drugging I didn't deprive myself of work, but it kept me from places I needed to get to. I checked myself into rehab and that's not easy once you do it. Change is difficult and scary. But I got clean and I saw direct results, especially with being able to focus.
Q: You played a junkie in "Jungle Fever."
JACKSON: It was like two weeks after I got out of rehab. It was cathartic to do that role. When that character got killed it was like a huge exclamation point in my life, a door that I could close.
Q: How do you choose roles?
JACKSON: Story first, then character, if it is a challenge, if there is depth. I wanted to emulate the films I loved as a kid. So I got my pirate out with "Star Wars," and that light-saber, I got the war thing out with "Rules of Engagement." I'd like to do a horror movie, and a Western.
Samuel L. Jackson on 'Star Wars' fate
Actor: 'It's a great light-saber battle'
Samuel L. Jackson dies in his next huge film -- but he does it in a really cool way.
Director George Lucas assured the actor that his Jedi knight character would go out in a blaze of glory in the forthcoming "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," and the director apparently made good on his promise.
"It's rousing," Jackson told the San Francisco Chronicle in Sunday's editions. "It's a great light-saber battle with 102 moves in three big rooms."
For now, though, Jackson is enjoying the success of his "Coach Carter," in which he stars as a real-life high-school basketball mentor who shuts down the program to focus on his players' lagging academic education.
The film debuted as the top weekend movie with $23.6 million, studio estimates released Sunday show. But don't expect Jackson, 56, to get anxious about his shot for an Academy Award.
"I have a place that's pretty much cemented in Hollywood in terms of liability, box-office viability and everything else. The only thing an Oscar would do is jack my check up maybe $1 million," he said.."
Samuel L Jackson: 'I'm vain'
Shaft star Samuel L Jackson has proudly branded himself vain.
The Hollywood actor admits co-ordinating his outfits is always a high priority for him before he steps through the door, even if he's going out for a game of golf.
He says: "I'm totally into that vanity thing. I pay attention to what I look like when I leave home - even when I'm consciously dressing down.
"So when I'm going to the golf course at 6.30 in the morning, I'm figuring out what goes with what and what's gonna look fly when the sun comes up."
But Jackson doubts his vanity would ever stretch to having plastic surgery.
He explains: "I'd like to grow old gracefully."
Samuel L Jackson speaks about S.W.A.T.
“ I try to set some kind of standard for working so I show up as soon as they call us to set. I know my lines. I'm in place ”
After years of supporting roles, 1994's Pulp Fiction was Samuel L Jackson's big rise to the top, with his role in Star Wars propelling him further into superstardom. He has now become one of the most respected actors in Hollywood and in his latest movie, S.W.AT., he stars opposite Colin Farrell.
Were you a fan of the original TV series that inspired this film?
Sure. I used to watch the TV show in the 70s. It was the best cop show at that time but everything's been changed for the movie. It's inspired by the show. We have the big truck and my name is Hondo and Colin is Street, which are the two main names from the TV show. We still have the spirit of the TV show - the camaraderie, the team work, the whole thing. It's really the evolution of what S.W.A.T. is now from what it was then.
How realistic a picture does this film paint of what the S.W.A.T. teams actually do?
It's essentially about what these S.W.A.T. guys do and how they do it. There's not a lot of CGI stuff. It's really watching these guys do their job and the sort of tedium of how they do it. You follow them through their training sessions and so on. We actually went to S.W.A.T. school for two weeks and these guys do this day in and day out. These guys train and train and train and train. We essentially didn't know all this stuff so we learned how to pretend to do things in specific ways. But to be a S.W.A.T. team and to learn to work as a unit was very important, so we'd look good on screen and we could portray these guys in a very realistic way.
There were a lot of young actors in this movie. You play their leader in the film... but was that a role you were tempted to assume off set too?
I guess they saw my responsibility, as the more seasoned actor on set, as kind of setting the standard of what we wanted to do. So when it was time to be on set, I was usually the first guy there. I try to set some kind of standard for working so I show up as soon as they call us to set. I know my lines. I'm in place. I know their lines and I'm aware of what we're going to do. I'm always anxious to get on set and do something. I'm in place and ready to go. I know most of the cameramens' names and I know most of the grips. I speak to them. I treat them the same way as I treat the actors and I let the other actors know that these guys are as important as we are in the greater scheme of making sure the movie works - because it's pretty much a collaborative effort between all of us.
There are no women in the real LAPD S.W.A.T. team but in yours, you have Michelle Rodriguez. So how did she shape up?
Michelle is one of the most energetic people I've met in my life. When they yell "cut", she's off climbing something or doing a 100 yard dash down the street in full uniform just to burn off the energy she's got left! She's physically capable of doing anything a man can do. She can do more push ups and more jumping jacks and she is just such a ball of energy.
What about Colin Farrell?
He's a charismatic guy but he's also an extremely professional guy. He shows up and he does his job. He knows his lines, he's in place and he knows how to have fun doing his job and this is a fun job. You show up to a job like this to do what essentially we did as kids. You come out of the house ready to play cops and robbers and you're ready to play it in earnest. Colin's ready to play and that's what he does in earnest. He looks you right in the eye and gives you an honest characterisation and you can give him something back, then he gives you something back. You're playing and you're having a great time, and that's all I want in somebody.
Samuel L Jackson: Changing Lanes
Did you find yourself flexing acting muscles that you maybe left idle with films like "Shaft" and "The 51st State"?
It's a different approach to the craft, I guess, because the character is more complex. There is a reality base that's very different from the fanciful worlds of "Shaft" and "The 51st State". I harked back to the days of theatre when I had to sit down and analyse who the character was, where he came from, and what his natural reactions to things were, historically. But I also credit Roger [Michell, the director] for how that character is sort of temperate and eked out in little bits.
Did you encounter any real-life road-rage having to shut down the streets of New York City to make this film?
We only closed down the first three exits on the FDR, and we would be there on Saturdays and Sundays. Occasionally we'd get the 'road bogeys' coming out of the tunnel from Brooklyn that didn't see the detour signs and they would run into our traffic, and they'd sit there in that traffic thinking there was an accident up ahead until somebody said "Action!". When they'd take off, we'd see them and laugh, realising those people had been sitting there for an hour.
In the film, Doyle's AA sponsor tells him he's addicted to chaos. Is the "chaotic" Doyle close to the real Sam Jackson?
In a sense, he is. He's the old Sam. But New York can do that to you. It's just that kind of place where sometimes you just have to seek refuge. And sometimes that refuge is just being oblivious to what's going on. When I first went on location out of New York, the first night, I just couldn't sleep. Something just wouldn't allow me go to sleep and when I was finally still and tried to listen to what it was, I realised it was nothing. I hadn't been in a quiet place for so long, it was disturbing.
You spent a lot of time in "oblivion", and then AA, like Doyle...
Yeah. I still hang out in bars with people, I drink tonic or I get something that looks like an alcoholic drink, because I just want to be accepted. But then you get some people who'll come up to you and say, "You hang out in a barber shop long enough, you'll get a haircut." I mean, What? Shut up!
People tell you stuff like that because they think you're going to fail. And sometimes they want you to fail, just so they can say I told you so. So I understood Doyle's angst when he deals with those AA bible thumpers. I also understood what it's like going into a bar and thinking that if I have one drink, you know, maybe I can calm this madness that's going on around me.
But Doyle has to arrive at the knowledge that he never went into a bar and had just one drink. I know I didn't. I never had a beer. If I bought a six-pack of beer, I kept drinking till all six beers were gone. You have to have that kind of understanding about yourself. I haven't had a drink now in 12 years.
What's it like headlining a movie with another actor whom you only have a handful of scenes with?
That happens in a lot of different films. It's pretty much par for the course that you never see each other when you do films, so it's not strange. It felt like we were making different films. There was a film being made about my character and there was a film being made about Ben's character, and somebody put them together in the editing room and occasionally we came together and we acted together.
What was it like when you did?
It was great. Ben and I know each other socially, so we had lots to talk about and the fact that we do like each other made it easier for us to, like, hate each other during those periods when we had to. So we could laugh about it when it was over and effectively do it.