SAN DIEGO — He’s been a gangster and a hit man, a distraught father and a disgraced police officer, a scientist and a Jedi.
In his latest role, Samuel L. Jackson is a snake-killer.
Jackson stars in one of the summer’s most anticipated movies, the title-says-it-all thriller “Snakes on a Plane.”
He helped promote the movie last month at the country’s biggest comic book convention, Comic-Con, by wearing an albino Burmese python around his neck. It’s the closest he came to his slithery screen companions (agent’s orders, he says). Still, Jackson was as cool as Jules Winnfield, the scripture-spouting hit man he played in 1994’s “Pulp Fiction” that earned him an Academy Award nomination.
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As the San Diego Convention Center buzzed with frenzied comic fans, Jackson relaxed outside on the patio, his blue Adidas-clad feet up on a table, brown shades and a white Kangol hat shielding his eyes from the sun.
Here, he chatted with The Associated Press about his latest role and genre-hopping tendencies.
AP: How was it working with the snakes on this movie?
Jackson: I’m fine with snakes. Fortunately for me, when things start happening, when the snakes originally show up on the plane, I’m kind of upstairs. When I come down, the snakes are in one part of the plane and I herd people out of there and block that part of the plane off, so I very seldom come in contact with them. My agent didn’t let them put live snakes close to me.
AP: You didn’t trust the snake trainer?
Jackson: He’s a snake handler. He’s a snake wrangler. There’s no such thing as a snake trainer. You can’t teach a snake to roll over and sit up. They just don’t take orders. Who trusts that?
AP: What else is going on besides “Snakes”?
Jackson: “Afro Samurai” is an animated series that’s going to be on Spike. I still have to finish the voice work for it and they haven’t finished animating it yet. Then there’s “Home of the Brave,” probably out in December, with Jessica Biel, Christina Ricci, Brian Presley and 50 Cent. “Black Snake Moan” is coming out next year. That’s a good little film.
AP: And then you have something with penguins?
Jackson: “Farce of the Penguins.” It’s a spoof. I do a Morgan Freeman role. It’s just like the other one, except it’s penguins on the dark side.
AP: What would be your dream role?
Jackson: Movies aren’t like theater. You can’t say, “Well I’m old enough now to do ‘Hamlet.”’ You just keep going. You just hope good scripts come by and good stories come by and you pick the right ones and just enjoy yourself. It’s all about the stories and the characters on the inside. You never know until they show up.
‘Movies are a crap shoot’
AP: Did you know what Jules Winnfield was all about when you saw him?
Jackson: No, you just read it and kinda go, “Oh this will be fun,” and you go and do it and hope people like it. Movies are a crap shoot. It’s one of those weird situations where you read something and you that know you like it, and you know that you have a group of friends who like it, but nobody knew the crossover appeal of that particular film.
AP: You have done films in every genre. Which appeals to you the most?
Jackson: It’s all about the stories and characters. My allegiance is to work. Some people are good at certain things. I tend to think I can do a lot of things. I think I can do all of it.
AP: What about things on the other side of the camera?
Jackson: I’d get into more producing, just because it gives me an opportunity to tell stories I want to tell. Directing is too much work. Plus, you can only direct one thing a year. You direct it, then you’ve got to go edit it, then you’ve got to score it, then you’ve got to do the press for it. Before you know it, a year and a half is gone and you’re still talking about the same thing. I like moving on. It’s good for me.
AP: Did you always want to be an actor?
Jackson: At one point I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau, but I got over it. I like science, underwater, all that stuff. Then I discovered the theater and I was like, “Wow, this is cool.” When I got to college I kind of got away from it. Then I took this public speaking class and the professor offered us extra credit to do “Threepenny Opera” because he didn’t have enough guys in the play. I did it and I’ve been doing it ever since. I discovered chicks like actors, so it was good.
AP: And if you weren’t acting?
Jackson: I like to think I’d be on the PGA (tour) playing golf.
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