Here at Moviefone, we think America's greatness should be celebrated all year long -- or, at the very least, for an extra week. That's why we're declaring March 31 - April 4 "America F@$& Yeah" week, with five days of patriotic interviews and features that honor America and the movies.
I'm nervous. Why? Because I'm about to enter a room and interview Samuel L. Jackson, one of those great actors who kind of defines the term "badass" in Hollywood. You need attitude, a sharp tongue, and a withering way with words? Call Samuel L. Jackson.
Marvel called him seven years ago to play Nick Fury, director of covert government agency S.H.I.E.L.D., in a cameo at the end of the first "Iron Man," and has kept him on speed dial ever since. Now, having played Fury six times -- and being bumped up to a lead in "The Avengers" and this week's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" -- Jackson's next stop as Fury is "The Avengers: Age of Ultron."
I sat down with Jackson at a hotel in Beverly Hills, where the actor -- who's pretty laid-back face to face -- talked about Nick Fury, why he waves hello at his TV, and the "Laurence Fishburne incident." And yes, he did, in fact, call me out on something.
Moviefone: When you first did that cameo at the end of "Iron Man," did you know already that this could become a thing like for the next ten years?
Well, the nine-picture deal was signed before I did the cameo. They were like, "Okay, this is gonna be the introduction." I was like, "And that's gonna count as one of the films?"
And did it count?
You've gotten to do more in each movie, so, naturally, people have asked if there's going to be a Nick Fury movie.
People still ask that.
Would you like that, or do you like being sort of the straw that stirs the drink for the other heroes?
Oh, I'd love to do a Nick Fury film, but it would probably involve all these people also in the same way. I mean, the "Iron Man" standalone is kind of different. But, I mean, Nick being Nick and where he is in terms of S.H.I.E.L.D. and all this other stuff, I always imagined that there would be some of these other people involved in that somewhere and in some way. It would be interesting to find out what they think his development was. I often think about his relationship to Cap. He's sort of ageless. Right now I'm not real sure, because, you know, the Nick Fury I remember was a guy with a patch in World War II or whatever. So how old is this dude? And why is he still around and so vital?
This movie touches on some political realities of today. Do you see Nick as comparable to some of these guys, like the head of the NSA, who think they're doing the right thing, but...
Yeah, of course. I'm a product of the '60s, so I don't know if people in those particular jobs even think they're doing the right thing. They're just doing a thing that they sort of believe in and some of them do it because they know it's a necessary evil. And I think Nick has that whole necessary evil idea that some of the things you're doing aren't right, that you shouldn't be doing some of this stuff. Or that the general public would look at it as wrong. It's like, you know, people saying they just discovered the NSA is listening to their conversations. It's like, really, you just figured that out? Where've you been living?
You know, when I'm sitting at home watching TV sometimes and I'm watching certain kinds of shows I kind of wave at the TV, because I figure somebody's watching me watch that. But I'm just one of those people because I'm a product of the '60s, and I think the government's been trying to get in our lives for a very long time. I close my computer when it's off, you know, because I don't want my camera just open sitting around.
But I think Nick is one of those pragmatist kind of guys that knows that, you know, evil's all around. And when he said don't trust anybody, he means it. The closest thing he has to trust is Natasha. There's a scene missing from this film actually where she's kind of bent out of shape because he didn't tell her he was gonna be doing this thing that he did. And she's like, "Well, you tell me everything." It's like, "Well, apparently, I don't tell you everything," which gives her pause. She's like, "I've been buying into something with you that's not honest either."
He's an island in the midst of all this stuff. Or he sees himself as that. So he only throws out bits of information to whoever needs it. The way he tells Cap, you know. Everything's compartmentalized.
Nick Fury started out in the comics as a white guy, but I don't remember the same outcry when they made him black in the comics and then cast you in the movies as they're making now over Michael B. Jordan playing Human Torch in "The Fantastic Four."
I was surprised that there hadn't been more outrage or outcry, but I guess the audience now that's watching these films -- a lot of them haven't gone back in that comic book history to see that, you know. When somebody says David Hasselhoff played Nick Fury, people kind of dismiss it as, "Well, that had to be f**ked up because David Hasselhoff did it." So, they don't see it that way, but yet, still this week, I look online and, you know, now people are all bitched out because Quvenzhane (Wallis) is playing Annie (in the new film version of the musical "Annie"). It's kind of like, it's a f**king fantasy, you know. People do this kind of thing all the time. It's another iteration of Annie so accept it or don't accept it.
You had that incident recently where you were being interviewed on the morning news in Los Angeles, and the entertainment reporter thought you were Laurence Fishburne.
Did he ever apologize to you in person?
He was in the room yesterday [doing interviews for "Captain America"]. The elephant was sitting there the whole time and he finally got around to it and said, you know, "Are we okay?" "Yeah man." You know, I was never angry. I was having fun.
You pretty much owned him.
I watched the Super Bowl and if he was talking about the "Captain America" trailer he should have identified it as a trailer and not a commercial. So the jargon was wrong. Even though he may say, "Well, I meant the Captain America commercial." But he didn't. I went straight to Laurence Fishburne. That's happened before. People mistake us all the time. And it was an opportunity for me to have some fun, do something different other than having a bullsh*t interview about "RoboCop."
So, I just wouldn't let him off the hook. And I thought about all the commercials that I watch because I watch a lot of television and I see a lot more black people in commercials now than I used to see. When I was auditioning for commercials, I never looked like the guy that had a dog and two cars and a kid and all this stuff, so I didn't get commercials. Now, kids have dreadlocks and all the things that I had, but they wouldn't let me do commercials because they didn't think the rest of society wanted to buy products that had that guy talking about it. So it's very different.
But it was just an opportunity for me to have some fun. I was never angry. It was never a rant. It was described as so many different things. CNN said I was ranting at the guy and a lot of people online said I played the race card. I said, "Well, what other card was I supposed to f**king play?" We're actually talking about him mistaking me for another black actor, not Al Pacino.
Let me ask you about a couple of upcoming things. You're in "Cell," with John Cusack, which is based on a Stephen King book. You and Cusack did another King movie together, "1408," which did quite well. Was it fun to team up with him again?
Yeah, I like John, you know. We had a great time doing it. An interesting story. Another one of those things that's sort of timely, that people talk about it all the time -- using cell phones as a weapon of sorts or something that changes the world in another kind of way. So yeah, you know, Stephen wrote that book a few years ago and it's kind of real timely now.
And you're also playing the President in "The Secret Service"...
No. That's two different movies. I actually play the President in a film called "Big Game."
Oh, I'm sorry. My mistake.
"Big Game" is an interesting film by a young Finnish filmmaker. Just me and a kid out in the wilderness and some terrorists trying to find me and hold me hostage and whatever. An adventure film and sort of a coming-of-age film for the kid who was in it because he's actually on his manhood trek or something that they do in Finland where you have to go out and kill something. He finds me and he's sort of a nerd but he pretends to be a woodsman. So it's interesting that the kid grows up in another kind of way while we're out there in the woods.
"The Secret Service" is based on a graphic novel.
Yeah. It's a graphic novel. Matthew Vaughn's directing it. With Colin Firth and Michael Caine and a lot of people. It's gonna be fun.
I looked quickly and I totally confused the titles.
No, it's okay. I'll correct you.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" hits theaters April 4.
Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images