When casting of The Hateful Eight was first announced, Samuel L. Jackson’s presence likely thrilled but didn’t surprise anyone. As New York Magazine notes in their new cover story on Jackson (it’s a two-parter, with Tarantino’s cover story released yesterday), since Pulp Fiction, the actor has been the most consistent and noteworthy presence in Tarantino’s movies. The feature on Jackson devotes a lot of room to the actor’s connection to both the director and his material, and of course vice versa.
The feature declares, perhaps a little hyperbolically, that the other movies Jackson does “somehow feels like biding time between Tarantino movies.” Jackson says that he and the director have had an “affinity” for each other ever since, on the set of Pulp Fiction, Jackson shared his love of kung fu movies with the director. They were also both raised by their grandparents in Tennessee, and were both comic-book crazed kids. Now, they have movie-watching get-togethers at Tarantino’s house. Tim Roth, who also stars in The Hateful Eight, tells the magazine that “it feels, to [him], that Quentin’s leading man is Sam.”
Jackson has also been an adamant defender of Tarantino’s handling of race, emphasizing his frustration with Django Unchained being considered an “entertainment popcorn movie” in comparison to 12 Years a Slave; according to the magazine, Jackson found Django “far more disturbing.” The Hateful Eight is just as much about racial oppression as Django, with Tarantino saying in his own cover feature in New York Magazine, “finally, the issue of white supremacy is being talked about and dealt with. And it’s what the movie’s about.” In the film, which is set not quite a decade after the Civil War, Jackson plays a former slave who fought in the Union Army. Because The Hateful Eight addresses racism head on, Jackson is preparing to likewise have to address people who object to Tarantino’s use of the N-Word. He suggested a desire not to ignore the slur’s ugly commonness in historical (and not-so-historical) American speech, and said of people who’ve spoken out against its usage in the films:
I tell them, ‘[Tarantino’s] telling his story. If you’ve got a problem with that, then you need to write your story.’ We’re talking about people living in a specific time who speak a specific way, who still do speak a specific way in parts of the country. I grew up in the South in segregation. I heard it every day.
Apart from The Hateful Eight, this year alone, Jackson has been busy shooting Tarzan, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Tim Burton’s upcoming film), and Spike Lee’s Amazon film, Chiraq.