Samuel L Jackson on Tarantino’s use of the n-word: ‘He’s telling his story’


Samuel L. Jackson covers New York Magazine’s fall movie preview issue, the same issue with Quentin Tarantino’s noteworthy/crazy interview about The Hateful Eight. Sam and QT are kindred spirits in so many ways, and I think their collaborations together will go down as one of the greatest actor-director relationships in film history. Most of Sam’s interview is about The Hateful Eight, race and all of that. Sam, as always, is a great interview. Remember his Playboy interview from a few years ago? That’s still one of the best interviews I’ve ever read. But this one made me laugh out loud, especially when Sam starts talking to his sweater (you can read the full piece here). Some highlights:

His biggest problem: “My agent and manager tell me that my expectations of everybody else being as prepared as I am is my biggest problem.”

Why he played the narrator in Inglorious Basterds: “Quentin didn’t believe I could learn enough French to be the other black guy — I would’ve figured it out!”

He really isn’t rolling in money: “Everybody worries about money, except for billionaire people. There’s no b in my money.”

His affinity with QT: “Quentin and I have a kind of cinematic affinity…[On the set of Pulp Fiction,] Quentin would walk by my trailer, and he would always hear the sounds of either kung-fu fighting or bullets going off, and he would look in the door and say, ‘What are you watching?’” To this day, they still do movie nights at QT’s house because “he’s got a bigger theater.”

Comparisons between Django & 12 Years a Slave: “Unfair comparisons were made between the two films, and it was more about Quentin using the word n–ger 102 times in the movie and it’s like, well, there’s one song in 12 Years a Slave where they say n–ger like 300 times! But it’s a song, so it’s art?”

Sam’s response to the people who criticize Tarantino’s n-word usage: “I tell them, ‘He’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. And people who didn’t say n–ger said niggra, which was like, Why don’t you just go ahead and say it? It sounds the same to me.”

It doesn’t matter that South Carolina removed the Confederate flag: “People still got it on their license plates. It’s just part of the fabric of the South. I don’t mind knowing who the enemy is if they want to announce it.”

He loves seeing movies in the theaters with his senior discount: “I’m 66! I can show my ID at the theater and get a discount. And I do! I’m not too proud. I’ve earned it.”

[From Vulture]

There are lots of great little asides, like how Sam and his wife vacation with Magic Johnson and his wife every summer on a yacht, and Sam brings the movies. So, like, Sam, Magic and their dude friends are sitting in a darkened theater of a yacht in the middle of the Mediterranean watching art-house kung fu movies. Seriously. And Sam is still pissed that Quentin didn’t cast him in Reservoir Dogs. STILL, to this day, Sam is pissed about it.

As for how Sam consistently defends Tarantino’s racial politics… I like that Sam feels so strongly about QT’s cinematic vision and that Sam stands up for his friend in interview after interview. Personally, I find Sam’s views on race much more compelling than Tarantino’s, but whatever. Tarantino is the one still writing compelling roles for Sam after all these years.


Photos courtesy of NY Magazine.

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36 Responses to “Samuel L Jackson on Tarantino’s use of the n-word: ‘He’s telling his story’”

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  1. Eve says:

    LOVE him.

  2. kri says:

    First off..66?! Wow. He is so awesome. My favorite thing he said here “I don’t mind knowing who the enemy is if they want to announce it”. Yasss. I love when idiots just come out and tell you they are idiots so you don’t have to waste any time with them and their low, disgusting f#ckery. This movie looks fantastic.

  3. Pandy says:

    I like how he’s framed QTs dialogue – it’s how the characters he’s writing would talk, not that it’s how QT speaks. And I LOVED his comment about the confederate flag and how he doesn’t mind an easy way to suss out the enemy.

    • Elisha says:

      Exactly, he has just so much reason and so much common sense. If you were to remove the word from the movie it becomes this whitewashed inaccurate thing, people need to be confronted with the discomfort of hearing it.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Yes. I loved what he said about knowing who the enemy is and I’m glad he’s sticking up for QT. I mean how do you make a movie about slavery and not use the n-word. Not having characters from that era use that word would be disingenuous. I was also surprised that people wanted that word removed from editions of Huckleberry Finn. Context is important. And may I also add this qoute. “Those that do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

      Also, I love Sam Jackson and I think I’ve seen almost every single movie he’s been in. To me he is an icon and I hope to see him in movies for a long time to come.

    • Loulou says:

      Fully agree with you.

  4. Josefa says:

    Is it even possible to dislike Samuel L. Jackson? He’s the epitome of cool.

    • Alice says:

      It would be really hard to dislike him. A few years ago the NYT listed him as the biggest box office star worldwide. I can believe it – he seems to appear in about 50 movies every year.

      • Kori says:

        It’s crazy when you think of the franchises he’s been a part of. Jurassic Park. Avengers. Star Wars. I love how he was once That Guy. You’d see him in movies like Patriot Games and others and he wasn’t the star but it was always better if he was in it. Then he became A list himself.

      • Alice says:

        @kori. SLJ always brings it, to every part, every movie. I haven’t seen every single one, but in those I’ve seen he’s always good, always a vital element.

    • Kitten says:

      If you hate Sam Jackson then you need to get your head examined. He’s a legendary actor and such a cool f*cking guy.

      • I Choose Me says:

        I love that you love him. *Goes off to watch his chat session on Graham Norton once more*

  5. David says:

    WOW 66 , never would have guessed that was his age.

  6. Freddy Spaghetti says:

    I love that he goes to the movies to get his senior discount. He just seems like he’d be fun to hang out with.

    • Liv says:

      Me too. I find it hilarious that he mentions it. Also the fact that he likes movies so much as an actor is so cute. I’m such a movie fan myself so it’s cool to see him being still excited about it after all these years doing that job.

  7. Crocuta says:

    Samuel is great in every interview (my fav is his Graham Norton interview with Sandra Bullock). There’s a reason why he’s considered the coolest dude on this planet.

    • Applapoom says:

      I love that he has come on Graham Norton several times not to promote one of his projects but to promote awareness of male cancers. To see such a macho guy reach out to men to not stick their head in their sand when they have symptoms must have saved some lives. He sounds so loyal to his friends too.

  8. Lilacflowers says:

    Samuel L. Jackson has his own fascinating story to tell and I would love to hear it.

    And I’ll probably see Hateful 8 Christmas Day because my family has a history of seeing Tarantino movies on Christmas morning.

    And is Sam confirmed for Skull Island?

  9. Esteph says:

    I think Sam is so cool, and as for the n-word – if he is OK with it then that’s all that matters IMO.

  10. vauvert says:

    ADORE him. Bloody hell, 66??? He can do no wrong in my book. And while I find QT a narcissistic self aggrandizing bugger, I also think that he is a very interesting director, and if people want to criticize him, there’s lots to pick from, no need to argue about time-appropriate use of language in a movie.
    Sidenote: I would love to be there with them watching action flicks, SLJ on one side and QT on the other, just to hear the commentary!

  11. Luca76 says:

    ‘ I don’t mind knowing who the enemy is if they want to announce it.”

    Only reasonable defense of the Confederate Flag I’ve ever heard.

  12. Kitten says:

    I want to be friends with Sam Jackson.

  13. Tacos and TV says:

    I agree. He’s telling a story from a specific POV. If we caught him unfiltered using the N word we would have a totally different discussion. Also, this country focuses on such trivial things like a film using the N word. What about a film showing a family being disemboweled. That’s much more harmful. Or a film where there is a 12 minute rape scene. That’s pretty harmful as well. But, a movie set in a time where slavery was a way of life and the word was almost as common as using a person’s name… I think it’s fine. And I’m saying this as an African American. If I heard Q saying the word for personal use, I’d say F him.

    • ChocoChipDstryr says:

      I take it you haven’t seen Tarantino being interviewed while promoting his movies? Between dropping n-bombs, mentioning his Mom use to date a black guy, and changing his speech pattern/demeanor when around black people (look for his interviews when he’s on BET), I can honestly say I don’t care for him. BTW, I’m black.

    • Hautie says:

      “What about a film showing a family being disemboweled. That’s much more harmful. Or a film where there is a 12 minute rape scene….”

      Oh, holy cow… I had never read the book “The girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. So image how friggin startle I was… with the rape scene in it. (the movie)

      I was just sure they were going to cut from it… and go to the aftermath. But oh hell no… that was a brutal draw out scene. One I never ever expect to see in a movie. A main stream movie, that has such a huge PR campaign.

      So yea… I don’t get all the word police. Clutching their pearls. Looking for their smelling salts over a Tarantino movie.

      When I don’t really recall anyone being upset about a very graphic, highly lit up, rape scene of a tiny 25 year old female… in a big main stream movie.

  14. JRenee says:

    One of my favorite actors, ever!

  15. Alice says:

    I love when a director finds his muse and you can watch their development over years and decades.

  16. danielle says:

    I really like him!

  17. Madpoe says:

    THE baddest ass 66 year old ever!
    Love this mofo!