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July 2006
SNAKES ON A PLANE: An Interview with Samuel L. Jackson

SNAKES ON A PLANE: An Interview with Samuel L. Jackson
By Wilson Morales

It’s almost silly to keep saying that Samuel L. Jackson is the hardest working man in the business. He doesn’t just look for roles that are Academy worthy. This man really works! If there’s a project that piques his interest, he’ll go for it and we will be there to see him in the film. Now, when he signed on to “Snakes on a Plane”, who knew at that time that this film would be the most talked about film through the internet. The buzz is so strong that folks creating songs, t-shirts, and anything associated with the film. While in San Diego Comic Con, Jackson spoke about the craze that this film has started and how he approached his character.

It's basically the title of this movie that's causing hype; is that the reason you came to the project?

Samuel L Jackson: My first awareness of this film was that Ronnie Yu was going to do it; I saw it in the trades. I emailed Ronnie and asked him if it was a horror movie and if he was doing it. He said yeah. I said I wanted to be in it. He said, "For real?" and I told him, "Yeah." So he called New Line and New Line called my agent and all of a sudden I was attached. As things happen Ronnie ended up not doing the picture but I'm still here. I hadn't seen a script all I knew was the concept.

So then what were your feelings when you saw the script and got a new director?

SLJ: It didn't matter as long as it was what I thought it was going to be it was fine. It was a movie I could go and see and scream real loud and freak my friends out.

This is a real Internet film. Have people been sending you the pictures and the videos?

SLJ: I go on YouTube.com everyday. I search the blogs and see what's new. So yeah, I keep up.

Any favorites?

SLJ: I'm digging, “Someone tell Sam Jackson he’s my bro,” I sing it a lot. I like that song.

How much prep did you do for this movie?

SLJ: None. I'd walk into the snake room and look around at them some days but other than that we didn't see them. Snakes were on the second unit. My agent was insistent. No snakes within 20 feet. In the beginning they were talking about having rattlesnakes they had taken the venom sacks out of but I was like, "Oh, hell no. That don't work for me." But I don't have a fear of snakes or anything like that, I grew up in the country. When I was a kid when we saw a snake the snake was in a lot more trouble then we were. We'd chase it and hoped we could catch it so we could beat it. I've handled them, I had snakes draped all over me the other day for the photo shoot.

The first version of the film was PG-13 until New Line saw the hype around it right?

SLJ: Somebody woke up. They said, "Wait a minute." And it's a better film. C'mon it makes no sense to make a film like this in this day and age and shoot it like it's a 1960's horror movie or cowboy movie. There are certain things that are requirements for horror films. If two people go in the bathroom to join the mile high club you've got to see the girl's breast. That's what people pay the money for. If you watch any film about kids who are out in the woods having sex you've got to see a breast before the killer shows up. And if it's a snake you've got to see a snake on her tit. That will be in theaters later, the porn version, Snakes on a Tit.

Did you approach the character in this the same way you'd approach any other character?

SLJ: Yeah, sure. I know who he is, I know his background as an F.B.I. agent, why he's after this particular bad guy, what he feels about snakes, what he feels about his partner. But the most important thing is that when you do a film like this you have poisonous snakes that people know and can identify as poisonous. Mostly Cobras and Rattlesnakes. And then you introduce them to some exotic new things that kill people even quicker. And you have great victims on the plane. You have people they want to see dead and people they don't want to see dead. And you have people who are interesting that people see them and say, "I wonder how they're gonna die?" So it's that combination of things that make this movie great. It's a real shame that people can't seem to remember that when they were kids they went to a movie that didn't necessarily have to be Gone with the Wind. You went to a movie to see Frankenstein chase people or to see Wolfman chase people. Or big spiders jump out at stuff. Saturday afternoon movies. I feel sorry for all those people who questioned my integrity for doing something like this.

Like who?

SLJ: A lot of people. Online, offline, critics, you know people do. I've read that stuff and its fine, people are entitled to their opinions but it's a sad state of affairs when you're going to tell me that an actor of my status shouldn't do something like that. I'm an actor. I do the kind of films I want to do and enjoyed going to the movies and watching movies like that when I was a kid. Even down to last year when we got to Vancouver and all of a sudden everything is secret and they're like (The studio), "We don't want to give away too much." (laughing) Um, sorry, I think you do. The whole point of this is snakes on a plane. The other movie you did was Freddy vs. Jason not one bad guy against another bad guy, it was Freddy vs. Jason. You know exactly what you're going to get here. Alien vs. Predator okay, Snakes on a Plane.

Do you have an opinion on the film not being screened for critics? Do you think it needs to be?

SLJ: It doesn't need to be. The only thing that can happen is people will say bad things about it. The people that love it know what they are going to get coming into the film. There's no need to say, "It's just people getting bit by snakes on a plane." Uh, Yeah. Okay. That's what it is, it doesn't need to be reviewed. It doesn't need a grade or someone saying, "The snakes look cheesy." Who cares? It's a 2006 Roger Corman movie.

Do you think you'll do anymore horror films after this one?

SLJ: Yeah. Starting Monday in London. 1408.

Oh, Steven King?

SLJ: Yeah, Michael Hafstrom.

What else is coming up for you?

SLJ: When I finish 1408 I'm going into “Jumper”.

What drives you to take them so close together?

SLJ: There aren't many acting opportunities out there so I take the ones that are for me. Movies happen to come right after another so I do it. I tend to go to work, I like it. It's not a hard job.

Are you going to make a cameo in Quentin Tarantino's section of Grindhouse?

SLJ: I don't know, I haven't heard from Quentin.

How did you feel about your trademark line not being in this film?

SLJ: I said before we got to that point, before the movie was R, "I'm really not going to say this, at all?" Because you only get two fucks in a PG-13 film and they both had to be non-sexual. I think they'd already used one before I got there and only had one left.

How do you feel about the Internet taking such a role in promoting this one?

SLJ: I think it's cool. It's the next step in what's going to happen anyways. There are so many things people are aware of because of the information highway. For a film like this it's great. Most times people who sit in offices have no idea what's going on in the real world with what people want to see or what their expectations are. Fortunately for New Line this happened and was out of hand before they were even made aware of it. The fan demand made them understand what they had. And that it was okay to have a film like this and that it's worthy of your attention and you're not just trying to sneak it in under the radar. But eventually I think there's going to be films like this that are of a certain genre that some smart person will invite that type of input. Something like, "Okay, I have an idea for a film, and here's my idea, how do you think this should play out? Who should be in it? How long should it be? Should it be one parts, two parts, or three parts?" And the interaction from the fans will fuel this whole thing and make those people like they are such a part of it that if you got a dollar from all those people you can make the film. You could have the longest producers credits ever, just run it real fast.

What about your work on "Afro-Samurai"?

SLJ: I've done some preliminary voice work for it. I think they've completed the first episode. I ran into Bob Ozake, the creator and he's completed the comic book which is good news. Hopefully they've identified the person; they said they had a first draft of the live action script. I had a real thrill the other night because I got to meet the director of Azumi (Ryuhei Kitamura), one of my favorite Japanese films that's finally going to be released in America and hopefully we'll get him on board and he'll be the director of the live action version of "Afro-Samurai."

Is there room for a sequel with Snakes on a Plane? Would you do another one?

SLJ: I don't know, we were trying to figure it out. I don't know what the vehicle is that puts you on the situation like the plane where you can't get off. Maybe we could do rats on a plane and the tagline would be, "Where's the fucking snakes when you need them?"

SNAKES ON A PLANE opens on August 18, 2006

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