COACH CARTER - Q&A with Samuel L Jackson
Movie Interview by Neils Hesse
Samuel, how does it feel to be the 6 billion dollar man, seeing as that's the amount that the blockbusters that you've been in have made?
It's a dubious honour, but I suppose it's good in that it's a new watermark for someone to reach and hopefully it'll mean something, so I'm proud.
You play an inspirational guy so who inspired you?
I had a lot of teachers who inspired me and challenged me, a few of them had taught some members of my family so they had an idea of what was expected of me. I worked harder to please these people and also to please myself. Through my successes they have succeeded vicariously and it's satisfying to know that. I was watching some programme about my life on TV and some of these people appeared on it saying how proud they were of me and that is very fulfilling.
Were you into sports?
I swam and ran track, but now I don't like running so I play golf.
In fact you took part in the Dunkirk cup in Scotland last year are you doing it again this year?
Yes I also did quite well in The AT & T, so I should hopefully be taking part in the Dunkirk tournament this year.
How hard did you work to avoid it slipping into cliché?
Ken Carter the actual Coach Carter was on set a lot so I just tried to play it according to the honesty of the script. The story highlights the fact that there is more to it than winning at all costs and I thought that made it different from a film like HOOSIERS.
Was there any parallel off screen with the young cast looking up to you?
It was incumbent of me to be there on time to set an example, to know my lines and their lines as well. They were having so much fun that we had to ensure that they realised that we had work to do as well. We needed them to focus and they had a tendency to take it as a game. It was good for them to appreciate that there was a time to play and a time to do some work. I always try to get to know everyone on set. I'm not one of those actors that you aren't allowed to look at.
Was there anything that they found particularly hard?
Doing a scene over and over again was like suicide for them. I guess I was also kind [of] like their protector as I had to stop them from doing too much or being pushed too far. The basketball scenes were very physical so I insisted that they always took a time out to recuperate.
Was Ken as smart as you are in the film?
His suits weren't as expensive, but he was very smart and he did actually coach in a suit, he loves flamboyant ties.
The basketball scenes worked very well, did the cast have to be tutored?
They went to basketball camp.
Did the basketball scenes have to be as real as possible?
Yes, the American public in particular know what good basketball is so it had to be at a high level.
Did you play any basketball and can you play any ball?
I can but I didn't play any real ball this time around we played a game called Horse which doesn't involve any running so I beat them at that one.
How far do you share Ken's opinions?
I'm not sure about his taste in neck ties but I am always concerned about athletes and we always read stories about how some of them can't read and the athletic scene today is all about winning and when they're done playing in college they disappear so to have this guy who wants them to have an alternative to that by making them respect education is an unusual but good thing.
Did you miss out on any roles to do this film and are you looking out for a franchise movie to make into your own?
I have done STAR WARS [STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH] and I am doing XXX2 [XXX: STATE OF THE UNION], but I didn't drop any roles to do this. I am quite privileged in that I get to choose my roles and occasionally I might do something that's like a day's work whilst I'm doing something else. I don't wanna be some 60 year-old guy who's just beaten up a 20 year-old guy in some film but maybe if there was a role about some clever guy who solves things with his head then maybe I'd consider doing that.
Any plans to do a film about golf?
If there was a good CADDYSHACK kinda film out there I'd do it.
Considering that it took you quite a while to make it big, do you think that young actors and athletes may benefit from not getting it all too soon and how do you feel about the trend of music artists becoming actors?
Well I think that successful athletes need to use their money wisely, to invest it for their future. Actors well the pretty girls come on the bus to Hollywood and when they're not cute anymore they loose out on roles. Also I believe that an actor should earn his or her keep. I pounded the pavements for work so I would rather break a new young actor than a young musician trying out acting.
Are you playing yourself in Ricky Gervais's new sitcom, EXTRAS and did you like THE OFFICE?
Yes I am and I loved THE OFFICE.
If you had been in Coach Carter's position is there anything that you would have done differently?
He pretty much espouses the theories that I stand for but again I stress that I would have worn different ties.
Was Coach Carter surprised by how quickly he was accepted by the team?
No not really, the fact that he had done so much before he coached them validated him for those kids. Being in a community like Richmond where not much is expected of you and then to have the basketball team start winning made the whole community happy. His shock came when the community didn't support him in forcing the kids to take their education just as seriously as they took basketball. What makes it even more interesting is that in real life they won but for the movie the producers thought it would work better if they lost.
How do you feel about the English idea of winning not being that important?
[Bursts out laughing] Games are played to be won or lost not to tie. It's like all that talk when people say that it's an honour just to be nominated for an Oscar, bullshit! Everybody wants to win, so I am not for that idea.
Do you like cricket?
I got to understand a bit of it, but what exactly happens in those 4 days.
Do you mean 5?
Yeah whatever, I don't really get cricket.
Are you satisfied and done with your STAR WARS character and experience?
I was here about two weeks ago working on it again. I'm glad that I'm part of it, it's really a fulfilment of a wish, it's a dream come true. I'm more than pleased with how I end up in it.
So you go out with a bang?
So does George Lucas know that you have one of his light sabres?
Yes, I asked him for it.
Had you been a member of the Richmond [High Oilers] Team how would you have responded to Carter's commands?
I was raised in an authoritative home. I listened to adults and I always said yes sir and yes ma'am, and I might not have agreed with some things they said but then I would ask another adult about it. I would not argue.
How satisfying was the work you did in THE INCREDIBLES, for you as an actor?
The end result was amazing, over three years they'd call me up and say we need you in the studio and for an hour I'd be in a little recording booth on my own, I never knew the full details about what it was about. If I had my way now I would make it the best film of the year because it has something for every one, kids, families, grown ups - it covers the whole spectrum.
What do you think about British soaps and the hard men of British soaps?
Hard men of British soaps? That sounds pornographic. Somebody referred to EASTENDERS as 'deadenders'. Your soaps are very different from the ones we have in America. Over here it seems like if you turn them on after one year it's still at the same place, they seem much more real over here, closer to the stuff my grandmother and her friends used to watch back in the day, they'd call each other up and discuss the characters in the shows as if they were real people. I like British TV.