Samuel L Jackson as Major Marquis Warren in The Hateful Eight
Before Harvey Weinstein introduced "Quentin Tarantino's leading lady, Uma Thurman" at The Hateful Eight brunch with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins, I spoke with Samuel L Jackson on John Huston's The Unforgiven with Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy and Audrey Hepburn and he charmingly reminded me of his evil character as the power behind Leonardo DiCaprio's throne in Django Unchained. Thurman and Jackson were in Pulp Fiction together, as was Tim Roth and she remembers the meeting that eventually led to Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Jackson also starred in Jackie Brown and was the narrator in Inglourious Basterds.
Samuel L Jackson: "I took what he wrote and tried to put flesh on it …" Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
As one of the Hateful Eight, bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) first emerges hitching a ride on a stagecoach dashing through the thick snow of a post Civil War Wyoming. Inside the coach he meets fellow bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell), handcuffed to Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a fugitive on the way to being delivered to Red Rock to be hanged. Warren carries with him his prized possession and open sesame - a treasured personal letter from Abraham Lincoln.
Daisy shows no respect and when they arrive at Minnie's Haberdashery, a rest stop during a blizzard, a game of cat and mouse, involving race and military standing and a few more hateful travelers, reveals an intricate patchwork of lies, Tarantino style. Samuel L Jackson interprets Tarantino's words like no other and lets ambiguities shine.
Anne-Katrin Titze: Do you have a favorite western?
Samuel L Jackson: Do I have a favorite western? Yeah, The Unforgiven.
AKT: Why The Unforgiven?
SLJ: It's a classic story. You know, men who reached a point in their lives where they understand the kind of toll they've taken as they lived their lives and what the value of life really is. And what it really takes to kill someone and what that toll is on you.
Samuel L Jackson as Stephen in Django Unchained
AKT: Your character in The Hateful Eight resembles no other western character. Was there any role model for you? Anyone you modeled him after?
SLJ: That particular character?
AKT: Yes. Or did he spring fully formed like this out of Quentin's head?
SLJ: I took what he wrote and tried to put flesh on it in as interesting and charismatic a way as I possibly could.
AKT: What's the most hateful character in movie history you can think of?
SLJ: Hateful character in movie history?
AKT: Anybody you really, really hate?
SLJ [pauses for a moment to think]: I'd have to say me - in Django [Unchained]. Stephen!
John Ruth (Kurt Russell) with Major Marquis Warren
AKT: Wow, that works.
SLJ: Yeah, that works.
Uma Thurman co-hosted the Monkey Bar brunch with Lucy Liu, Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein and recalled how it started for her with Quentin Tarantino.
Uma Thurman: 20 [plus] years ago I had one of the luckiest days of my life. I walked to The Ivy on Robertson [in Los Angeles] for dinner with the young Quentin Tarantino. That night we got three and a half hours into what fortunately for me has been a lifelong conversation - interrupting each other constantly from the very get-go. And then we made a few films after that.
Since then I've had the privilege of being one of the first people he shows his scripts to when he births them. I know Sam, I think, you're also on that list. None of us slipped the script. It wasn't us.
Samuel L. Jackson: It wasn't me.
Uma Thurman, waiting to be introduced by Harvey Weinstein, with Samuel L Jackson at Monkey Bar Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Uma Thurman: It was a real privilege to have that experience. You know, his ever evolving anarchic voice, changing language, creating a whole new wave of cinema step by step. His passion for cinema, the 90 minute narrative - or in his case the 184 [187 minutes roadshow version]. And celluloid itself, film as we know and love it, the medium of an entire art form - he is in fact fighting to preserve this piece of our culture for generations to come. That alone is its own best picture.
When I put down the script of Hateful, I had the rare joy of getting to call California and choke on the word "genius". And the film lives up to that promise in spades. He did it again - this time differently. He is maturing - with an elegance, masterfully taking us on a fresh sleigh ride through our own brutal history. Each character brilliantly portrayed, telling their own stories with total subjective impunity.