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Samuel L. Jackson Gets Candid On: White Filmmakers/Black Stories, 'Django,' Spike Lee, More...

by Tambay A. Obenson
September 24, 2013 4:50 PM
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As I said in a Lee Daniels post yesterday, as an interviewer, it's so refreshing when the person you're interviewing isn't afraid to speak freely and honestly about whatever it is you ask of them. It makes the entire experience so much more interesting and even relaxing, which I believe translates to a just as interesting read.

Samuel L. Jackson is another one of those old school cats who just doesn't give a you-know-what. I've had the pleasure of interviewing him just once, for Django Unchained, but it was during a press junket for the film, which meant I had no more than 10 minutes to talk to him. It's always nice when you have what feels like all the time in the world to have a real, in-depth conversation with the people you're interviewing, and you're allowed to ask them almost anything.

Playboy magazine got such an opportunity to chat with Samuel L. Jackson in an 4-page interview that's just been published on their website. It's a very candid conversation that you're encouraged to read. In it, Jackson talks Django Unchained, criticism of that movie, his feud with Spike Lee, his kinship with Quentin Tarantino, his militant youth, his politics today, his thoughts on Obama, his early career struggles on the theater circuit, and more.

He also mentions that there were some brutal scenes in Django Unchained, during which he tortured Django (Jamie Foxx), but which were left on the proverbial cutting room floor because they were so brutal to watch. He adds that he hopes Tarantino will eventually release those clips.

Some highlights from the Playboy piece...

On the argument against white filmmakers telling "black stories":

There is this whole thing of “Nobody can tell our story but us,” but that’s apparently not true, because the Jackie Robinson movie finally got made as 42. Spike didn’t make it, but people still went to see it. When Boaz Yakin did Fresh in 1994, all of a sudden it was like, “Who is this Jewish motherfucker telling our stories?” He’s the Jewish motherfucker who wrote the story, that’s who. If you got a story like that in you, tell it. We’ll see when [director] Steve McQueen’s movie 12 Years a Slave comes out, if it’ll be like, “What’s this British motherfucker know about us?” Somebody’s always going to say something.

On criticism of Django Unchained, he calls out those black people whom he says feel the need to "wave a flag of blackness that they don’t necessarily have the credentials to wave," singling out W. Kamau Bell as one example:

W. Kamau Bell’s FX show [Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell] had this whole segment where he was criticizing Django. He’s a young black man with nappy hair and very dark skin, but he also has a very white wife and an interracial child. You can’t tell me you know what people in the South did if you never spent time down there. He can say there had to be words Quentin could use other than nigger. Well, what are they? These 20-somethings can’t turn around and tell me the word nigger is fucked-up in Django yet still listen to Jay Z or whoever else say “nigger, nigger, nigger” throughout the music they listen to. “Oh, that’s okay because that’s dope, that’s down, we all right with that.” Bullshit. You can’t have it one way and not the other. It’s art—you can’t not censor one thing and try to censor the other. Saying Tarantino said “nigger” too many times is like complaining they said “kike” too many times in a movie about Nazis.

On the violence in Django, and playing a villain:

Tarantino asked me to play the most hated Negro character in cinema history, but if people think they hate my character, they will really despise him if one day they get to see me torture Django. There are scenes on the cutting-room floor or in Quentin’s house or wherever that one of these days, hopefully, he’ll let people see. He literally could have Kill Billed that movie, because there is enough stuff for two two-and-a-half-hour movies. A Django Western and Django Southern would have been equally entertaining and great. I kept hoping he would do that. People said, “Well, slavery wasn’t a picnic,” and I want to say, “No, motherfucker, slavery wasn’t a picnic,” but nobody was singing songs while picking cotton in the field in that movie either. People got whipped. Dogs got sicced on people. These 20-year-olds and others are always talking about “Where’s my 40 acres and a mule? Where are my reparations?” Well, you wanna act like the government owes us reparations, we gotta show what they owe us for. Here it is, right here onscreen. These stories must be told. Yet they still want to turn around and go, “Fuck Quentin Tarantino, he don’t know shit about it,” but if Spike, the Hughes brothers or Carl Franklin had done it, it would have been right? Look, Quentin has this master storytelling ability, and a lot of criticism from a lot of people is straight bullshit jealousy because they can’t do it themselves.

On things he'd absolutely never do on screen, even for Tarantino:

Probably dress up as a woman and kiss another guy. I don’t think people want to see me do that. He hasn’t asked me, but you know what? If it’s done right and the story is good, I might.

And that's just a sample, so head on over to Playboy magazine's website and read the rest HERE. It's Playboy, so it just might be NSFW, and may be something you would want to read at home, or in transit on your iPad.

Unless I just missed it, the Playboy interviewer didn't ask him about Armond White's recent criticism of his entire career, calling Jackson the "ultimate Uncle Tom."

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  • CareyCarey | September 25, 2013 2:33 PMReply

    Samuel Jackson, as with Bernie Mac, are my kind of guys. Can't you just hear Sam saying Bernie's famous line "I ain't scared of you motherf***ers".

    And, it's been noted that Mr. Jackson loves using the word "mo*herfu*kers" as much as Bernie did. As I was reading Samuel's f**k laden interview I was reminded of one of Bernie's concert performance:

    "Everybody in my f**kin' family cuss, man. When my mother passed away, bless her heart, my brother went up to the preacher and said "Reverend... that was a hell of a m*therf***kin' funeral you did". My grandmother said, "you ain't bulls**in." My uncle said, "he is m*therf**kin' good, ain't he." I said, "what the f**k is happenin' here?" Priest said, "These m*therf**kers is crazy, ain't they".

    Yeah, that was some funny sh*t and Jackson didn't say anything "wrong".

    I mean, can anyone tell our stories? Of course they can, but of course the devil's in the details.

    Is QT a great storyteller? Without a doubt that is true, his "success" is testament to that fact. But of course there will be those who will play the "semantics" game as a porous rebuttal.

    NI**ER-NIG*A-MY NI*GA... let me count the ways the N-word has been used and abused by whites and blacks. Nope, I am not, I'm done with that never-ending-bullsh*t-debate. And Sam said it right --> "You can't have it one way and not the other. It's art—you can not censor one thing and try to censor the other"

    "Look, Quentin has this master storytelling ability, and a lot of criticism from a lot of people is straight bullshit jealousy because they can't do it themselves."

    HELLO! Say it right Samuel, and shame the devils.

  • Donella | September 25, 2013 1:06 PMReply

    Whenever Sam Jackson talks about Quentin Tarantino, for some reason my thoughts turn to the Human Centipede.

  • MOVIERGOER90 | September 25, 2013 12:45 PMReply

    I agree with Sam Jackson on the fact that if you have a story that you want to tell, that you shouldn't be criticized for wanting to tell it, but know what you're talking about! If you going to write or direct a period film, do your research. There have been plenty of non African-American directors that have told "black stories" and have done a good job at it (i.e. Color Purple) in my opinion. I looked at a clip of W. Kamau Bell's take on Django, and he seems to make some valid points. Beside Bell's issue with the film's constant use of the "N" word, he points out some of the historical inaccuracies. (I recommend watching the clip, it was actually kind of funny.)

  • anwar | September 25, 2013 7:02 AMReply

    He's entitled to his misinformed opinion but, actually yes, slaves were singing in the cotton fields, and no, MFer, they weren't sitting on swings in front of the big house watching the clouds pass by.

    didn't see the kamua bell segment but the N word usage is the least problematic aspect of the movie

  • regi | September 26, 2013 1:03 PM

    thank you!

  • Jonathan Neal | September 25, 2013 5:00 AMReply

    Had me all the way up too dressing up as a women!! To me shows that for Hollywood you will do just about anything. Good film but Tarantino did it for shock value and to stay current he actually couldn't give a shit about us just getting that money. I guess you can put it down to us black never being happy with how we are depicted or our story is told, but hey nothing it ever clear cut. But at the end of the day what has this movie done for us as a whole please tell me ?

  • LJ Matthew | September 25, 2013 12:14 AMReply

    The Hughes Brothers directed 'From Hell' a feature based on 1880's London Jack The Ripper. Were they any less qualified to tell this story considering, 1. They're not of British heritage and 2. They are Black? Were we having this same discussion when this film was in production and ultimately released? If so, I certainly don't recall. Film makers are storytellers and great film makers are great storytellers, ethnic and racial origins aside.

  • LJ Matthew | September 25, 2013 8:11 PM

    Great storytellers are not exclusive to their own ethnic and or racial histories.

  • LJ Matthew | September 25, 2013 8:08 PM

    And I will check out 'Manderlay.'

  • LJ Matthew | September 25, 2013 8:00 PM

    This particular discussion is not exclusive to just the internet. At least not for me. People with the tiniest interest in diversity within film and media in general have always maintained these kinds of discussions. They are thought-provoking, agonizing and unfortunately our reality...for now. The bright side is that do communicate our thoughts an opinions and hopefully these thoughts and opinions are taken seriously enough to make positive changes. As for whether or not the Hughes Brothers are "entitled," I cannot say. What I can say is they are Black and they are film makers. Regarding 'From Hell' not being an American story told by Americans is my point exactly. The use of the "n" word, at least for me is never acceptable. The use of it in this film was difficult to listen to and watch, yes. Whether or not it was excessive, especially for that era, I disagree. I can't help but feel there is more to it than the claim of the excessive use of that word.

    Derogatory words aside great storytellers are not exclusive to their own ethnic and or racial histories is my point. Göran Olsson is a film maker of Norwegian decent I believe. He is also the director of 'The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975.' The found footage shot and used for this documentary was shoot by Swedish journalists. If we could only get past the whole "Can White filmmakers tell Black stories and vice versa?" Look, if Spike Lee wanted to make a film on the Holocaust do you think he wouldn't do the research? Would we see Spielberg protesting Spike? I don't know, which is why I ask.

  • artbizzy | September 25, 2013 6:23 AM

    @MCQUEEN. Hmmm that's not what i took away from Manderlay at all. I thought it was a masterful, ugly depiction of how corrupt the well meaning white liberal impulse could be. It turned the whole white hero concept on its head in a way that hollywood is too chicken shit and wack to do. This was one of many things I took from that film. it's not about history so much as it is about the psychology of the oppressor. It's a cautionary tale.

  • McQueen | September 25, 2013 3:03 AM

    The primary message of Manderlay was that it was blacks' fault that slavery happened. Is that really the type of message we should be supporting in movies about our own history?

  • artbizzy | September 25, 2013 1:33 AM

    No we weren't having this discussion back when "From Hell" was released because 1. People weren't discussing things over the internet the way they do now and 2. Neither of the Hughes Brothers are entitled white men. Oh and 3: "From Hell" wasn't a pulpy, stylized film about American slavery made by a white American filmmaker with a jones for black exploitation films and the n-word (long before he made this stylish film about slavery which naturally gave him the excuse he needed to use the word ad nauseum-not that he needs excuses). Oh and have you seen Manderlay? That film was made by a white Danish director by the name of Lars Von Trier. It was brutal. It was painful. It was intelligent and insightful. It was humorous at times and highly original. I loved it.

  • Black Bolt | September 25, 2013 12:05 AMReply

    This interview pretty much clinched it. Sam Jackson is as dumb as a wet bag of nickels.

  • Critical Acclaim | September 24, 2013 11:17 PMReply

    For once, I agree with Armond White.

  • Rel | September 24, 2013 8:24 PMReply

    W. Kamau Bell is actually from the South he started his comedy career in San Francisco and then moved to NYC to shoot his show

  • Wagon, Chuck | September 25, 2013 12:47 AM

    San Francisco isn't the South...

  • artbizzy | September 24, 2013 6:26 PMReply

    Also, why's he so defensive? His arguments are kind of weak. Just make ya movies, man. Tarantino's movies make lots of money. Now here's to hoping Sam puts some of that money into producing and acting in beautiful smaller budgeted films like Eve's Bayou again.

  • Donella | September 24, 2013 6:25 PMReply

    It's refreshing to hear Jackson's thoughts on movies coming up this fall - OLDBOY - rather than last year.

  • artbizzy | September 24, 2013 6:20 PMReply

    Quentin Tarantino has master storytelling ability? Really? Quentin Tarantino is an entertainer with a "unique spin on things." He's also helped make Samuel Jackson a very wealthy man. And who wants to bite the hand that feeds them? Samuel Jackson's got car payments, too.

  • ReRe | September 24, 2013 9:52 PM

    I totally agree. More importantly, it's quite rare when the history of slavery is told truthfully, without mockery. And that's the point Mr. Jackson neglects to see or comment on. Quentin Tarantino made his $$$ by humiliating our history. I was totally displeased with the movie because we as a people should demand betterment for and of ourselves in the film industry. If we were depicted fairly and had higher status in Hollywood when it came to the quality of black films (directing, screenwriting & budgeting), then maybe, just maybe when such a movie as this is released - it would not receive so much attention, but be qualified as a flop. I have the upmost respect for Mr. Jackson, but would probably like to read his opinion on what he felt the movie lacked. There is no comparison to be made with slavery where humans were treated as less than & picking of cotton from sunrise to sunset with the reenactment of that in this film. The major difference, you ask? The actor can stand firm and state "No, I refuse.", and receive no punishment, whereas that slave would have been severely punished or killed - perhaps both. Truth

  • artbizzy | September 24, 2013 9:42 PM

    Quentin Tarantino certainly has style but not much substance. His films can be fun to watch but he's no Orson Welles. He's kind of like a caricature artist. He'd probably admit that since he likes to make films that are pulpy. His unique style happens to have commercial appeal but that doesn't make him a master storyteller. (But then we'd have to discuss what makes someone a master storyteller) He's simply found a formula that works. Plus he has a weird fetish-like fascination with black people. But then again who doesn't...

  • August Wasoba | September 24, 2013 9:23 PM

    @artbizzy but Tarantino is pretty great storyteller. he has a great catalog of films. and he does have a unique spin on films: Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Reservoir Dogs, etc. His films are definitely unique and with a style that not every director or writer could pull off as successfully.

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