Samuel L. Jackson

Did you ever imagine you would be this successful?

I was just looking to be able to watch myself work. The whole time I was doing theater, I always wanted to watch the plays I was in, but I wanted to watch ’em with me in ’em. And now I’m in a venue where I can. All those actors who say, “Oh, I never watch myself”–bullshit! We’re in a watch-me business.

So if you’re flipping around—

If I’m at home channel-surfing, and I’m passing a movie I’m in, I’ll watch it. I watched The Long Kiss Goodnight the other night, which happens to be my favorite movie. I was passing Pulp Fiction the other night, and I stopped and watched the kitchen scene with Jimmy and the Wolf. It’s all about the narcissism of being in something and watching yourself in it.

If your success had happened when you were younger, would you have been able to handle it?

Not at all. I’m a product of the ’60s, so there was something wrong with everybody who didn’t use drugs when I was growing up. If I had gotten to Amsterdam, I would probably still be sitting in front of some coffee shop smoking hash right now. Fortunately, I didn’t get there until I was sober, and I was like, “Damn! They’ve been doing this how long? These people are eating dinner and they’re smoking hash! How cool is this?”

What’s the dumbest thing you ever spent money on?

In one of those gift baskets, they gave us some Tod’s, those driving shoes with little rubber buttons on the bottom. Mine didn’t fit, so I went back to the Tod’s store to return them, and the girl said, “Just get anything you want.” I went upstairs and they had these alligator Tod’s, and I was like, “Oh shit! I want those.” She said, “Oh… well, anything but those. Those are five thousand dollars a pair.” I was like, “What? Alright, fuck it. Give me the black ones and give me the brown ones.” I walked out of the store, and I was like, how fucking stupid was that? That whole pissed-off arrogance? How did I spend ten thousand dollars for two pairs of fucking alligator loafers? But I do wear them, so it’s okay.

Are you a clotheshorse?

Yes, very much so. My mom was a buyer for a clothing store. She worked at sample shows, and she always came back home with all this stuff that people were going to be wearing next season, so I never looked like anybody else. But she dressed me very Ivy League: I was kind of square, but well-dressed. I wore herringbones, and patches on the elbows, and oxford shoes, and button-down shirts with monograms–that kind of shit. Sweater vests and corduroys. And as soon as I got out of the house, I became a hippie. Bellbottom jeans with patches on ’em, leather fringe vests and tie-dye and all that stuff. And as I got older, I mixed the traditional with the wildness of my own taste. So I end up wearing very traditional clothes with wild colors inside them. I wear orange with a traditional herringbone suit.

What’s the best wrap gift you’ve ever gotten?

I guess the one I got from Joe Roth at the end of Freedomland: two rounds of golf at Augusta National.

Who talks the most trash during golf games?

Me, probably. It’s between me, MJ [Michael Jordan], and Ahmad Rashad. They woke me up in London one morning at 6 am to go out and play golf—I didn’t know they were there, so I didn’t even take my sticks with me. I had to go out and beat them down with some rental clubs. Mike likes to play all day. Mike’ll play 54 holes in a minute.

When you’re making a bad movie, how long does it take to figure that out? Has it ever been the first day of shooting?

No, it usually takes about a week. That’s when you figure out, “Okay, this dude talked a good game, but he’s not prepared. This is not gonna be fun.”

I have no idea how good the movie’s going to be, but Snakes on a Plane is the best title I’ve seen in a while.

Is that not the shit? When I opened up that script and I saw that title, I said, “Oh, I’m doing this.” And then I get to production and they start talking about Pacific Flight 121. And I’m like, “Excuse me, what is that?” And they said, “Oh, you know, we don’t want to give away too much to the audience.” What the fuck are you talking about? How do you expect to get people into the theaters? “Well, we’re kind of noodling it, and we’re going to do a poll.” You don’t need to do a fucking poll! When I picked up the script, I took this job, because it said Snakes on a Plane. I didn’t have to read the script: You got a plane full of snakes. That’s all I need to know.

What word do you overuse?

“Cool” or “motherfucker.” I say “cool” all the time, and I use “motherfucker” at least eight times a paragraph. I refer to everything as a motherfucker. I say, “Oh, this shit was a motherfucker” or “Do you know what that motherfucker was like” or “Well, you know, the motherfucking thing.” That’s my perfect noun/pronoun/expletive/everything.

What’s the least cool thing about you?

Probably my lifestyle. I don’t club, I don’t do a lot of going out. I sit at home, watch television and read a lot. When I’m home in the afternoon, I just turn on TNT and let Law and Order run. I’ll watch an episode I’ve seen 13 times: “Oh, I like this one!”

What do you want on your tombstone?

My name. Spelled right.

Interview by Gavin Edwards. A shorter version of this Q&A appeared as part of “Viral Video” in Rolling Stone 998 (April 20, 2006).