21 Jun 2013

Tarantino 2. The wrath of Samuel L Jackson

My interview with movie director Quentin Tarantino earlier this year didn’t go quite according to plan. Fortunately, I got exactly what I wanted when I interviewed actor Samuel L Jackson earlier this week.

I really didn’t want to fall out with Samuel L Jackson, but this was clearly the sequel to my Tarantino interview and I was going to have to ask him about violence in movies.

Jackson, who I always think of as Jules “the tyranny of evil men” Winnfield from Pulp Fiction, was on the record sharing similar views to Tarantino, that movies have nothing to do with massacres, but has also done TV campaigns against gun violence.

Although Tarantino’s appearance on C4 News became a Youtube sensation, parodied by American talk shows and widely discussed, I did not want a similar eruption from Samuel L Jackson. For one thing, it would have been rather more scary (as opposed to comical). But more than that, I wanted an interview, not a tantrum. And I also admire him – his intensity, his voice and his coolness.

So I did something I’ve never done before. I told the PR handler the topics I wanted to talk about in advance in some detail and said: “Tell him, and make sure he’s prepared. I don’t want to have an argument, I want him to engage”.

Samuel L Jackson was here to promote a charity set up by his friend to highlight male cancers. One for the Boys is trying to encourage men to get tested for everything from breast cancer to prostate. So the unspoken deal for our 10 minutes was simple – we’d talk about the charity and then we’d talk about things we want to talk about, which on this occasion was movie violence (if I’d had more time there was a long list of other things too).

He’d also recently revealed he suffers from a stutter, which I find quite amazing given the intensity of his speech. I wanted to talk about that too.

I suspect his “preparation” was not really what I’d had in mind. When he walked in, he was not what you would call warm. When I introduced myself and said “It’s a pleasure to meet you” he looked sceptical, grunted “right”, and sat down.

But within a few minutes he’d relaxed and warmed up. He put up a more spirited explanation of his view on movie violence than Tarantino ever did, and afterwards asked: “So what happened with Quentin?”. We watched it on Youtube on my iPhone and he chuckled along, agreeing with some parts, pulling faces at others. It was exactly what I wanted from him – I hope you enjoy it.

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