Interview : Samuel L.Jackson


Clint Morris talks to the “Snakes on a Plane” star

Samuel L.Jackson knows he isn’t going to win an Academy Award for his work in his latest picture – but he doesn’t care. He did this latest thing, because he simply just wanted to have some fun, and wants the audience to share in that fun. CLINT MORRIS talks to the acclaimed actor about his latest movie, the heavily hyped “Snakes on a Plane”.

Nathan Phillips said to ask you how your surfing is coming along
Its not. Haven’t been back on a board since. Nope.

Can you talk about your relationship to Snakes – as in, as a kid did you ever seek them out?
I grew up in the country, so if we saw a snake, the snake was pretty much in trouble – unless that snake was very fast. There were certain snakes that we knew we weren’t supposed to mess with, but we messed with them anyway. There weren’t a lot of Rattlesnakes, but there were Cottonmouths and Copperheads, and they were poisonous.

When you got the script for “Snakes on a Plane” – did you honestly think that there would be live snakes on set?
We talked about it, and my agent said [says in nasally agent voice] “No Snakes within twenty feet of Sam”, so consequently, there was never any snakes around when we shot. The snakes were always on second unit with the stunt people and some other people. Snakes are delicate, and we were falling around luggage and doing stuff, and we didn’t want to hurt them – so it’s best that they put them somewhere else. And no matter what people say, there’s no such things as snake trainers – snakes can’t be taught to roll over and strike on cue. Mostly they’re kinda lazy and don’t wanna be bothered with people.

What was your initial reaction when you saw that title on the script, though?
The honest to good truth is – and people say Samuel L.Jackson took this job without ever reading the script, he just saw the title, and that’s sort of true – I saw in the trades that Ronny Yu was about to do a movie for New Line called Snakes on a Plane. Ronny Yu and I did a film together (“Formula 51”) and we’re good friends, so I emailed him, ‘What is this?’ He said ‘It’s my horror film for New Line’, I said ‘Can I be in it?’, He said ‘Are you serious? Snakes on a Plane?’ I said ‘Yup. If it’s snakes loose on an airplane, I wanna be in it’. And that was it. New Line called my agent and wanted to know if it was true, because they didn’t know, and my agent said ‘Yes, probably, Sam would probably like it’. And the next thing I knew, I was attached. Ronny Yu went away, and David [Ellis] came on board, and I still hadn’t seen the script but I was still attached because…. I still thought it was going to be fun. That’s all I thought it was going to be. And when I finally got a script, I was like ‘OK, cool – poisonous snakes loose on a plane’.

Are you as surprised as anyone by how much of a phenomenon this movie has become, even before it’s released?
Oh yeah, totally. I was surprised last year when people had picked up on the fact that they were trying to change the name of the film, and they weren’t happy about that. I wasn’t happy about that, I was totally upset everyday when I went to work. I was constantly going ‘Gotta put to the movie back. Get the name back’. They were like ‘Well, we don’t wanna give too much away’. I was like ‘Yes you do! – You wanna give it all away! Snakes on a plane, that’s what it is. Remember that movie made called Freddy Vs Jason? Just tell them what it is, they’ll come. You either wanna see that or you don’t’.

It was this time last year when the movie started to gain some momentum
Everyone thought it would petter out, but it didn’t. It’s still going strong. Even as we speak. There’s blogs and music videos….people are still making posters and pages. They’re just having fun with it. It’s great.

Are you still pumped?
Me? Yeah. I can’t wait.

Apparently New Line aren’t going to show it to the press beforehand, because they think all they have is something to lose – in other words, let the phenomenon just kind of go on its own, without anyone’s judgment. As an actor, how do you feel about that?
You know, I don’t expect an Academy Award for this, so I don’t care if people are sceptical don’t need critics to say ‘Oh my god, Jackson’s fantastic in this film!’ Who cares? We’re going to have some fun, and it’s OK. There are enough people already who think it’s a lowbrow concept and that I’m out of my mind – but I mean, it’s Snakes on a Plane. It’s Saturday afternoon at the movies. Scream with your friends, reach behind the set and go [pulls out fake snake] Aaaaaah! And have fun. Let it be that. There are a lot of movies that are just that. Not everything has to be ‘For Your Consideration’.

Do you think this is the start of a franchise? Snakes on a…
What would it be? I think this movie is so unique and self contained. There was that story the other day about the mice that chewed through some wires on a Dc 747. I guess we could do Rats on a Plane. The tag line could be, “Where the Fuck is a Snake when you need one.”

Snakes at a Press Junket?
That’s all that comes to press junkets [Laughs]

Why though…. Why this movie?
This is the kind of movie I would’ve gone to when I was a kid. My friends and I would’ve stayed at the movies all day long and watched this movie like three times.
There are a lot of movies I read that are duplicates of things I saw when I was a kid, and now I have the ability to be in them. For instance, Deep Blue Sea. Popcorn movie. I get killed by a shark? Hell yeah!

Is there any kind of animal you don’t like?
Snails. I don’t even know how people eat Escargo. I haven’t even picked up a worm, for fishing or otherwise. But you know what? I don’t mind snakes.

Did any snake ended up coming within twenty feet of you?
Not while we were shooting – but I had snakes draped all over me for a photo shoot.

Did you do lots of CGI work?
Yeah, and I’d done that on Star Wars – there were, like, things with balls on them that I had to react to – so I thought ‘I can do that, I remember that’.

You’re now doing “Afro Samurai”. How did you get involved in that? Because you’re voicing the character, right?
Voicing a couple of the characters actually, because Afro Samurai doesn’t talk that much, but his buddy talks all the time. I have a great love for Asian Cinema, and the creator sent me a tape of this. I liked it, then got involved with it. It’s a great project that combines traditional sword fighting with hip hop music. RZA is doing the soundtrack. The first two episodes are done, almost done with number three, and then we have two more episodes to do. And I’m hoping to do the live action version – they just got the first draft – with this kid, Ryuhei Kitamura, who directed this movie Azumi, about a 16-year-old girl that’s an assassin. Hopefully we can talk him into doing the live version. That would be great.

What are you doing next?
I’m heading to London on Sunday to do 1408. Stephen King short story. Horror film. With John Cusack. I’ll be done with that in a couple of weeks. Then, I’ll go from that to Jumper, with Doug Liman.

What turmoils do you face in this film?
All of them.

We have turbulence and the plane dives…steeply. There was also this thing with a baby. The air conditioning goes out in the plane – so naturally I had to go down into the hole, where there are all these wires, and where there might be snakes. There’s also people on the plane that you want to see killed – we’ve got a Paris Hilton type on the plane, who has this little dog, and you’re like ‘Is the dog gonna die’? You wanna have good victims. People that go into the bathroom to join the mile high club – you know you’ve got to see a naked breast. Snakes on a Tit.

How do you feel having to say ‘Motherfucker’ just because the fans want that?
Fine. I demand that I say it too. ‘Hi, how are you – Hi motherfucker’. But that’s cool, that’s what they expect. It’s that kind of movie.

What do you hope people get out of this movie?
I hope they have fun. Like I said, I don’t expect the Foreign Press to call me up to the podium at the end of the year.

There are certain actors that won’t do interviews if it means missing out on their favourite sporting event. Isn’t that British Open at the moment?
They’re 8 hours ahead. It’s on at like 4 O’clock in the morning here, so I watch it then.

How’s your own game going?
It’s OK. I’m down to like a 4 Tee. I’m working too much. If I could just get some time off, I could work on my golf game. But I’m going to England, so I can play there. Just got back from Calgary, and played a little golf there.

You were going to do a movie called “Poker Night” with Hayden Christensen. That still happening?
The movie is dead in the water – but Hayden may be doing Jumper.

When you’re a plane now, does anything cross your mind?
Yeah, I hope the seat goes all the way down so I can go to sleep. I don’t have any fears about flying – I get on a plane, and I go to sleep. I put my ipod in, go to sleep, and hopefully I won’t wake up until we land. Like I tell my wife, don’t wake me up until we crash.