Samuel L. Jackson Interview For ‘Django Unchained’
Set in the South two years before the Civil War, Quentin Tarantino’s ’Django Unchained’ stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunger Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. The unorthodox Schultz acquires Django with a promise to free him upon the capture of the Brittles – dead or alive. Success leads Schultz to free Django, though the two men chose not to go their separate ways. Instead, Schultz seeks out the South’s most wanted criminals with Django by his side. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago.
Django and Schultz’s search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of ‘Candyland’, an infamous plantation. Exploring the compound under false pretences, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), Candy’s trusted house-slave. Their moves are marked, and a treacherous organisation closes in on them. If Django and Schultz are to escape with Broomhilda, they are to choose between independence and solidarity, between sacrifice and survival. ‘Django Unchained’ lands in cinemas on December 25th in the US and January 18th in the UK. My other interviews for the film can be found via the following links (more to come): Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx/Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson #1.
Considering the interesting dynamic your character Stephen has with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie in ‘Django Unchained,’ how quickly did you build a rapport with each other and come up with that relationship we see in the completed film?
Samuel L. Jackson: We developed a rapport very quickly. Having never been in the acting arena together before – we’d seen each other before socially and we knew each other, but it was great to start the rehearsal period with him. When we were sitting around the table reading, it was great to find out how much he knew about the south, how much he knew about that dynamic between master and slave. And as we continued to read and develop what was going on there, he sort of took a cue from me in that I’m kind of like a father figure to him in the story, and Stephen could lead Calvin into places or try and be this kind of Machiavellian character that allows Calvin to do what he does, while Stephen runs the Plantation. The Plantation’s essentially Stephen’s. He may take orders from Calvin in front of people, but really, we know how this whole thing works. Leo was very open to that dynamic and allowed it to work and form to what we eventually see on the screen. And sometimes the stuff that happened once we got into costume and makeup and everything else, sometimes that was nothing like what we did in rehearsal, just because the magic of being in that space made it very different. Leo, man, he’s fantastic.
Do you remember how your conversation with Quentin went when you read the script and first talked about Stephen?
Samuel L. Jackson: When Quentin sent me the script he told me that he wanted me to read for this guy Stephen, so I kept reading, reading, reading, reading, reading, reading on, and I was like, “Where is he?” (Laughs) Because the ‘Django Unchained’ script was so long. But then when he finally shows up I was like, “Oh…….OK.” The script was great, so I called him back and I was like, “So, I’m fifteen years too late to play Django, but now you want me to be the most hated negro in cinematic history?” He’s like, “Yeah, that’s the job.” So I was like, “I’m down with that.” (Laughs).
I know you’re good friends with Quentin and you’ve worked with him a number of times before, but how was it working with him on this particular set? I understand there was no electronics allowed on set?
Samuel L. Jackson: It’s always a joy to be on Quentin Tarantino’s set. I trust him and he trusts me. Quentin, he’s fun. We play music, we dance, we sing (laughs). But yes, unusually this time there was no electronics allowed on set, so we talked to each other on set even more when they said “Cut!”. There was no iPads, no iPhones, no Blackberry’s, no one could run away and start texting, there was none of that. So we got to know each a lot better, we enjoyed each other even more (laughs). It was fun.
‘Django Unchained’ is the first time Quentin Tarantino sought out original music for one of his movies. How do you think that added to the film?
Samuel L. Jackson: Yeah, it’s the first time he’s used original music. He usually finds stuff that came out of his record collection, or stuff that he heard, or stuff he wants to make dissident to what is actually happening. It was very interesting that he used the original music. A lot of it came from people who saw the trailer, people like John Legend, who saw the trailer and all of a sudden wrote this song because he wanted to be a part of this thing. And Jamie Foxx ran into Rick Ross at the BET Awards, he came back to the New Orleans set with him and as it happened, he had an album that was named after a Spaghetti Western, ‘God Forgives, I Don’t.’ So Quentin talked to him and then the next thing you know he’s on the soundtrack. Quentin figures out a way to contemporise and make the film relevant to an audience that it may not ordinarily be relevant to. I really liked that.
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