After he first exploded as if fired by a cannon onto the film-going-public’s consciousness as Jules Winnfield in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, a performance considered by many to be one of the greatest works of acting in arguably the most entertaining movie ever made — for which he won a BAFTA award and Independent Spirit award — Samuel L. Jackson has enjoyed a career characterised by consistent success and longevity. Yet even more noteworthy is the way in which he has crafted his career while never compromising who he is. He is outspoken on his beliefs related to race issues and police violence in the United States; he is critical of the current generation’s obsession with fame; and he is dedicated to raising awareness of cancer among men because he understands that men often don’t like to admit they have problems. When The Rake met with him in Telluride, in between filming Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, we found him to be a man of considerable largesse. He was generous with his time, with his energy and with his thoughts, and amenable throughout both our interview and photoshoot — at one point even encouraging our brilliant photographer Tomo Brejc, as Brejc struggled to articulate the expression he wanted Jackson to wear, to “Speak, motherfucker, speak!”
Who is Samuel L. Jackson? Aside from cinema’s greatest commercial success story, he is considerate, thoughtful, sincere and, very possibly, the coolest man on the planet.
Do you feel that contemporary culture’s obsession with fame conflicts with the seriousness of acting as a craft?
I still think that acting is a craft. That it is something people need to respect and it is much more than just the fame aspect of it. The things we learned to do on stage or the things we learn to do from beginning to end are a lot more interesting than going to work and shooting two and half pages a day. Sure, film pays more (than theatre), but it is a director’s medium. He goes into a room and he takes the little pieces of film and puts them together and creates the story. It might look like what you intended it to look like, and it might not. So I still respect the theatre in a very real kind of way. I miss it. I did a play two years ago and that was great. Getting back into that flow of having to do something eight times a week is great. Every performance there’s a new audience and they are there and they are alive, so you’ve got to show up and do it. People can fix your performance if you’re doing a movie — they can even dub you over with someone else’s voice. But today, with the fame machine that’s out there, people tend to want fame over being respected or having a long career.