Every so often, I get completely sucked into a Samuel L. Jackson interview. That man can TALK. If I interviewed people for a living, he would be in my top-five interview subjects, alongside Ethan Hawke (who can also talk someone’s ear off). Sam loves to gossip and tell stories and he has a long memory of who said what to whom and how he got this part or that movie. What’s amazing is that for so many of his biggest roles, he basically just talked his way into the gig. He would mention a director in an interview and the director would call him a week later. Or he would run into someone at a party and they’d be like “hey, come do this movie.” Sam is 74 years old and his institutional memory of Hollywood is priceless. His Vulture interview was amazing – be prepared to read this very long piece if you have the time. Some highlights:

Moving to New York in 1976: “It was a great time to be an actor or be a Black actor in New York… there was a really, really great group of actors running around there that we either worked together, auditioned together, or went to see each other work all the time. I was there when Morgan Freeman got plucked out of the theater world. And Wesley Snipes and Laurence Fishburne. I remember auditioning for Platoon, but Keith David used to always get all the jobs everybody wanted. I don’t know how young people are in New York now, but we were a very big family. If I went to an audition that I knew I wasn’t going to get, I could always call somebody I knew that was better for it. It wasn’t a dog-eat-dog world. It was a very, very sharing and communal world.

He doesn’t have much input on where Nick Fury goes: “Well, no. Or you would’ve seen my ass in Wakanda. I don’t know [why I’m not in Wakanda]! I asked many times, “When do I get to go to Wakanda?” And they’re like, “No.” “Why? I know Wakanda is there. And I know about T’Challa. Why do I never encounter them?” They were like, “We’ll see.” Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie — all the Black people in the Marvel universe are like, “Wakanda. Do we get to chill in Wakanda?” Until Tony Stark’s funeral. That’s the only time you’ve seen Nick Fury and all those guys around each other at one time.

A story about Ryan Reynolds & Scarlett Johansson: “Ryan is a savvy motherf–ker. I knew him from when he and Scarlett Johansson got married. My wedding gift to them was a beehive. Scarlett was always talking about nature. So I had my assistant go out and buy 10 pounds of bees and then I bought them bee suits and the whole thing. They kept bees for a while. They got honey for a couple of years while they were married. And then one day the bees abandoned the hive or they abandoned the queen or some shit.

Receiving an honorary Oscar: “Didn’t feel honorary, just felt like I was getting an Oscar. I earned it. I worked for it. I can possibly name four other instances where I could have won or should have won or should have been nominated, but I’m fine with it. It’s mine. I got it. My name’s on it.

On Jackie Brown: “The problem is, it wasn’t Pulp Fiction 2. It was a great movie. Possibly a better movie. But it wasn’t Pulp Fiction 2. That’s what people wanted, until they realized, Okay, this guy has other ideas about what he wants to do. That didn’t happen until Kill Bill. I watched a lot of kung videos back in the day when I’d be in my trailer. Tarantino would pop in. I had this place that used to sell three kung fu movies for $5. Just off Times Square, right across from the bus station.

Using his voice as an actor’s instrument: “I grew up in a house where we didn’t have a TV for a very long time. And I was listening to radio dramas with my grandfather. I heard stories, and I had to see the pictures in my head. Andy Griffith was an amazing storyteller. I would listen to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon or Gang Busters or Amos ’n Andy. I was blessed to grab hold of it and understand it; I learned how to use my voice. When I want you to feel a certain way, I know to take my voice here. When I want to pull you along with me, I know to talk a little faster to get you to do it. Even if you don’t see me, you are in the story. I can put you in it. I can make you cold. I can make you hot. I can do things to you with my voice. It’s an important tool that I don’t think they teach. Now, you got your mics in your wigs and sh-t.

His Civil Right activism started at Morehouse: “So that was the beginning, basically, of my activism. Being a certain age and looking at the world and identifying it for what it is and what it becomes, which is why as soon as I hear “Make America Great Again,” I go, “When are we talking about again? Are we talking about back when we had apartheid?” I grew up in segregation in Tennessee. I went to school with Black kids ‘cause we couldn’t go to school with white kids. I saw Klan marches and Klan rallies. So I know what America used to be. When I hear them say, “Let’s make it that again,” it just makes my blood boil.

Tax billionaires: “I’m 74. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be around here raising hell or doing what I’m doing. But people need to start understanding that the economic gap is crazy. I pay an enormous amount of taxes, and it’s fine because I know I should. But why can’t we get billionaires to pay their f–king taxes? If those motherf–kers paid their taxes we’d solve a whole bunch of sh-t. And they would still be richer than every motherf–ker walking around them.

[From Vulture]

I appreciate that Sam dedicates time in all of his interviews to not only share Hollywood gossip, but show his open disgust for all things MAGA. He’s done this every time he’s been interviewed in recent years. I’m not sure it’s made any kind of dent, but I appreciate it. He has the history, he knows exactly what “MAGA” means and what time period these people are trying to go back to. It also feels like he’s speaking about a forgotten time of Hollywood, where people did handshake deals and you could get cast in a major studio movie just because you ran into someone at a party.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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