In an effort to encourage press for their movies, studios periodically fly reporters to Los Angeles or New York, put them up in extravagant hotels, give them a per diem, shuttle them to movie screenings, and hold round-table interviews with the actors and operatives behind the films being promoted. The Onion, of course, gladly partakes of as many junkets as possible, taking care to max out its per diem on fancy room-service meals, drinks, and long-distance phone calls. We recently took the opportunity to fly to Los Angeles for a screening of the tense, well-paced hostage drama The Negotiator; what follows is a transcript of our exchanges with star Samuel L. Jackson.
The Onion: Everyone always says at these junkets that whatever movie they're interviewing about is the best work they've done. Do you think that's true in this case?
Samuel L. Jackson: No. [Laughs.] I don't think that.
O: What is the best work you've done?
SLJ: I'd say the most seamless performance was probably Jungle Fever. Close on the heels of that would be Ordell in Jackie Brown and Carl Lee Hailey in A Time To Kill, and Jules [in Pulp Fiction]. You know, I have a great performance coming in The Red Violin. [Laughs.]
O: You have a history of getting jilted by awards shows; you always seem to be nominated and then not win, or expected to be nominated and then passed up. Why do you think that is?
SLJ: I don't know. [Laughs.] Actually, you know, I'm a member of the Academy, and when my ballot comes to my house, I fill it out, I send it in, and… I don't know. It seems like the stuff I vote for is kind of… "I didn't vote for that." I would actually like to know what came in second and what came in third; that would help me deal with the Academy process in some kind of way. Because, as it stands now, the majority of the younger people in the Academy actually think they don't even look at the ballots and just go ahead and [give awards to] whoever the board of directors and those guys behind it… There is no Price-Waterhouse, and somebody's just doin' something back there. So you don't know. Because the year I was nominated, I went to all the dinners and all this other stuff, and it was like, [whispering] "I voted for you." And then we get there, and Martin Landau wins, and I go, well, "Damn." Plus, I hadn't even seen that movie, so… I finally watched it, and… [Makes impressed expression.] I don't know, I don't think it's personal. Being nominated is, I guess, a sign of the respect that they do have for the things that I do, and sometimes, not being nominated is kind of, "So what?" I know what I did, and they can't take that away. It's there on film; it's there forever. 'Cause if I was gonna vote for somebody for Best Actor this year, I would have voted for me in Jackie Brown. They didn't like the film, but the performance was great. [Laughs.] In a fair world, I guess I'd have three or four Academy Awards, for Jungle Fever, A Time To Kill, Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction. Who knows? But, you know, it's not a fair world. I'll just keep working. [Laughs.]
O: Eight hundred million Star Wars geeks want to know any little nugget of information about the Star Wars prequel [in which Jackson has a small role as a Jedi Knight] you can provide.
SLJ: Uh, it was directed by George Lucas. [Laughs.] Other than that, honestly, I don't have a clue what that movie's about.
O: Did you see the whole script?
SLJ: I've seen the six pages of the script that I'm in, and I don't know what happened before or what happened after. I don't have a clue. I was asked not to even talk about the movie at all. I got a letter yesterday saying, "Hey, thanks for saying all those nice things about George, but do not talk about the movie."