A chance to meet the real Samuel L Jackson
By : Kerry Baggott
Sat Dec 10, 2016
It was standing room only. Tickets were sold out weeks in advance and every seat in the beautiful Arabesque Madinat Theatre was occupied almost as soon as the doors opened in order to get the best view of the stage. Suffice to say, anticipation was high.
Not surprising considering one of the biggest icons in the world of film was about to enter the room – Mr Samuel L Jackson.
He didn’t disappoint.
Wearing a light grey suit, white, open-collared shirt, white snickers and a white ‘flat cap’ (worn backwards) – a fairly ‘cool’ look for a man pushing seventy – Jackson strolled into the theatre to a rapturous applause and took his seat on stage beside his interviewer, Nashen Moodley, Director of the Sydney Film Festival and Director of DIFF’s Cinema of the World Programme.
For the next hour, Jackson opened up honestly about a host of social and political issues, and talked the audience through his colourful career.
It seemed somewhat surreal the way he would throw casually into his anecdotal conversation names such as Denzel, Morgan, Wesley, Bruce, Quentin, Spike…..
Following the showing of the iconic, moving scene from ‘Jungle Fever’ when Samuel’s character Gator finally meets his end following another emotionally abusive visit to his family home to beg and steal money from his mother, Jackson spoke about is own, real-life drug addiction.
“‘Jungle Fever’ was the first movie I ever acted in without having some kind of substance in my body,” he said. “I know now that if I picked up a drug or another drink then, in my mind, everything I have achieved to this point would vanish as instantly as it showed up when I stopped using drugs. So it [acting] keeps me sober and it fulfills my life,” he said.
To much amusement, he told us how, despite the fact that Quentin Tarantino originally said he was writing the character of Jules in the Academy and BAFTA Award winning ‘Pulp Fiction’ precisely for Jackson, the director subsequently had doubts and Jackson had to fight for the part.
“With no notice, I had to fly all the way from New York to LA to audition for a part that was supposedly written for me and when I got there, no one was there, they’d all gone for lunch!,” he said. “I was steaming.”
Having grown up in America’s southern state of Tennessee in the town of Chattanooga, Jackson went to segregated schools and became heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Subsequently, Jackson spoke about his memories of living with apartheid, modern-day prejudices and gun-crime in America.
During an animated Q&A session, he told the audience that when he’s not acting in movies, he’s watching them, particularly Asian films. He told us that he’d love to be cast in a Bollywood movie, and of his desire to return to the Broadway stage.
The time went all too fast - hardly a surprise when you try to fit in a life’s work into just one hour, especially a life that has been as colourful and creative as the recipient of this year’s DIFF Lifetime Achievement Award.