The M Interview: Samuel L. Jackson says he'll never turn down a Tarantino role
The Hateful Eight star on why he'll never refuse a Quentin Tarantino film and how they love the same movies
If Quentin Tarantino had a muse, it would be Samuel L. Jackson.
The Hollywood writer-director has said that the US actor "is one of the greatest actors to ever say my dialogue".
And that is borne out of the six films they have done together, the latest being American Western crime comedy The Hateful Eight, which opens here tomorrow.
Set in the years after the American Civil War, it revolves around bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) and his female prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who seek refuge from a blizzard in a cabin inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters played by Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen and Demian Bichir.
Jackson, 67, is one busy actor.
Last year alone, he shot Spike Lee's Chi-Raq and Tim Burton's Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, and has Kong: Skull Island in production.
Is it any wonder that back in 2011, the Guinness World Records listed him as the highest-grossing actor of all time with some US$7 billion (S$10 billion) in box-office returns?
He was only recently toppled by Harrison Ford after the mega box-office success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
We meet Jackson at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, and he is his usual good-humoured self in T-shirt and hoodie with the signature hat.
Tell us about your collaborations with Tarantino.
He tells interesting stories, he finds great characters for me to play and we explore them, we talk about them. I'm always open to doing stuff with Quentin. When he calls, it is not like I'm going to say no.
You were once the highest-grossing actor in the world. What do you think your place in Hollywood is?
I'm just an actor who is fortunate enough to read great things and make great choices for myself. They're not always award-winning or meaningful choices. I want to choose a project that is interesting to me and a movie that I want to see.
I'm an entertainer and that is what I do. It doesn't make me special in any particular way. I just happen to have an interesting job. People know who I am. I don't walk around with bodyguards. I walk the streets by myself because I always have. There are more people trying to take my picture on the street now... but that's just the nature of the beast, and you have to be nice to people and carry on.
How are the rehearsals and how do you handle Tarantino's dialogue?
I don't have any memory tricks. I've been doing theatre since I was 17, 18 years old, and I'm old now so I've always been lucky in that I could read something maybe three or four times and I know it.
And the luxury of having rehearsal with Quentin is incredible. We rehearsed this script for three weeks before we got to Colorado.
When we got to Colorado, it was snowing. Snow's going down your collar, it is cold out there. It changes your body language, it changes the urgency of what you want to do because you really do want to get in that stagecoach and I don't want to do eight takes in the snow, so it informs how you work.
What is this special bond you share with Quentin?
I think the kinship that Quentin and I really share is the fact that his love of movies is like mine. Movies for me were my companions. When I didn't want to be bothered with other kids, I read a book or I watched a movie, and I still do that and he still does that.
Movies were a place for me to dream and understand that I was not going to be stuck in that place that I was living in when I was growing up. That there was a bigger world out there.
I knew I couldn't be a pirate, but I knew I could get on a boat and go across the ocean. I knew I couldn't be a cowboy, but I knew I could go somewhere and ride horses and explore that terrain that's in those Westerns.
I think those things gave us hope to get out of the situations that we were in. We valued the fantasy of what the world could be. The childlike joy of being able to create our own characters in a world of our own making is something that we share.
When is it fun to be Sam Jackson?
When there is a long line somewhere and I just want to get in. (Laughs.) I hate to do it but I do it.
It is fun to be Sam Jackson when there is a new thing that everybody wants and they can't get it... So you end up getting stuff.
When people ask you what is the greatest thing about being famous, it comes down to two words - free s***. (Laughs.)
Tarantino threatened to quit after script leak
Every couple of years, US director Quentin Tarantino can always be counted on to produce an epic that generates discussion, controversy and admiration.
This time, the drama surrounding The Hateful Eight started when the script leaked in the early stages of production and Tarantino attempted to sue the website that published it.
Then there were his outspoken comments about police brutality towards black men when the movie came out in the US last month, causing police unions to organise a boycott.
No doubt, the 52-year-old has his critics in terms of the bloodbath that are his movies, his incessant use of profanities (including the "n-word") and his depiction of women in his films.
But the fact that he is an original creative voice in an industry that has few such talents has established him firmly in the annals of film-making.
A larger-than-life personality, Tarantino tells M that the leaking of the script made him angry enough to threaten to abandon the project.
"I wanted to get to a first draft and not worry about the second half of it and see where it went. I was thinking I was going to do three drafts and eventually figure some things out by that third draft.
"That's why it was so weird to have the first draft leaked out there because it was an unfinished cake and it wasn't the ending, it was 'a' ending," he says.
And how does he address criticism that he portrays women in a negative light?
The only woman in The Hateful Eight, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, is repeatedly beaten and cursed at, although the role of Daisy Domergue ended up earning her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination this year.
Tarantino says: "As a creator and as a writer and as an artist, I can't think like that, I can't entertain that kind of outside view of my characters. It's my job to write really interesting three-dimensional characters that can do or say or go anywhere.
"And to rob my female characters of the same sense of surprise or the same sense of outrage or the same sense of any of the destinies that my male characters are doing, well now I am just putting them on a pedestal.
"I am not treating them as characters, but I am treaating them as women. And I did want Daisy, especially in the first half, to have that quality almost of a Manson girl out West."
Quentin Tarantino: I wanted to get to a first draft and not worry about the second half of it and see where it went. I was thinking I was going to do three drafts and eventually figure some things out by that third draft. That’s why it was so weird to have the first draft leaked out there because it was an unfinished cake and it wasn’t the ending, it was ‘a’ ending.