Waving a sizable Egyptian flag, Samuel L. Jackson greeted journalists at the Sofitel Hotel, who had been waiting for him for almost an hour. But the grand entrance wasn’t the only unique feature of the Friday event. The press conference organized for the Cairo International Film Festival honoree was unlike that of his fellow Hollywood stars. Instead of the run of the mill ‘do you feel safe in Egypt?’ and ‘how do you feel about Obama’s victory?’, Jackson was answering questions about his career, his work with Quentin Tarantino and his relationship with mentor Morgan Freeman and director Spike Lee.
“We have a love-love relationship, he said of Tarantino. It all started with an audition to Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs , which “I obviously didn’t get. But the second time they met, Tarantino said he was writing a role for him, Jules Winnfield in “Pulp Fiction , for which Jackson got Oscar and Golden Globe nods. He got another Golden Globe nomination and a Berlin Silver Bear for Best Actor for his role as Ordell Robbie in Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown.
His collaboration with Lee – who went to college with him – started in New York, where Jackson had arrived first. Their “wonderful collaborative experience helped both of them, Jackson recalled.
With Freeman, it was instant chemistry. “I was fascinated with the ease [in which] he created characters.
Jackson, who usually refers to Freeman as his mentor, said that at this particular stage in his theater career, “my friends and family [when they went and watched him on stage] wouldn’t say look at Sam, but look at this character.
Jackson too got to be a mentor. Like the title character of his film “Coach Carter , he guided the young cast through the shooting. Being the oldest actor on site, he felt he “had a lot of obligations . He was the first on set, he knew his and their lines, and would take them to task when they blundered. He said he wanted to set an example through dedication. “Hold them accountable as I hold myself.
And like Coach Carter was pushing his players to be better students and prepare them for life, Jackson said he hoped his experience with the young actors helped them in their careers and lives.
But reaching this mentoring status wasn’t easy. As a student, he was an active member of the civil rights movement and at one point joined a pro-violence group and was found guilty of a second-degree felony. Finding a place on stage and later on in Hollywood wasn’t the end of the journey.
“Jungle Fever was very cathartic, he said of the film in which he played a drug addict. Just fresh out of rehab, Jackson said he didn’t need makeup in this film. “It was my first endeavor without substance in my body.
The film projected him to Hollywood as well as helped him learn more about himself. Whenever he thinks about having a drink, he continued, he just remembers where he was back then and where he is now.
The Hollywood star, with his own star in Hollywood Boulevard and rated by the 2009 Guinness World Records as the highest grossing actor in the world [$7.42 billion in 68 films], always tries to keep his head straight. He said he tries to see the role from the audience’s perspective, not from his standing as a star. He is known of watching his films with audiences in movie theaters.
But his perspective is also part of the equation. He said that sometimes when he gets a script with a specific role for him and he develops a liking to another character, he works hard to convince the director that he can play the other part. “I have to convince them that color or whatever won’t change the dynamic of the [character].
He, however, doesn’t look for the roles that would land him an academy award. “I don’t shy away from silly or horror movies, he said, calling “Snakes on the Plane a silly film. He tries to find things to entertain. “It’s the entertainment industry, he stressed.
“I’m looking for roles that made me jump and scream as a kid.
Jackson noted how his passion for acting was nurtured watching movies through his childhood. And it’s these types of films that he wanted to take part in.
“I hate that they don’t make Westerns anymore. Like the almost extinct genre, Jackson joked that he would also like to play James Bond.
However, as an avid comic books fan, he got to fulfill this childhood fantasy. In February this year, Jackson signed a nine-movie deal with Marvel Comics, which would see him star in “Thor , “Iron Man and many more. “I hope to stay alive to make all nine, he said, laughing.
Answering a question by Daily News Egypt on whether such films would be true to the original comics, Jackson said that the reason why “[comic books] got so popular is because of the characters.
Strangely, he continued, he found himself playing Nick Fury [from Iron Man], a character he had always pictured as a white guy with one eye. However, he hopes that he would add to the character.
“Hopefully, [these films] will be true to the comics.
Presented with his nickname Mr Cool, Jackson was joking with journalists, audience and conference moderators. “That’s cheating, he told Festival President Ezzat Abou Ouf when he asked if he could ask him a question.
And when the staple questions of ‘have you watched Egyptian films?’ and ilk surfaced, Jackson kept the cool attitude. “I just saw the dude from Kingdom of Heaven, he said of Khaled El Nabawi. He even told an Algerian filmmaker to send him her script. “I take 2 million, he told her with a smile.