Samuel L Jackson interview: 'Movies need to be better'

With television having created such a ‘wonderful landscape’ for creativity, the Hollywood veteran thinks film needs to up its game

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The Independent Culture

Samuel L. Jackson has 165 acting credits to his name spanning 44 years, and they’re almost all in film.

He’s yet to take a substantive role in a television series, despite a lot of movie stars having migrated that way, but he hasn’t ruled it out.

“I’m just passionate about acting, if the right television thing role along I’d do it,” he tells me. “There’s some very fascinating and innovative things happening in television.”

There really are, to the point where some feel it is surpassing the achievements of cinema.

Sam seems to agree, and thinks that some creators are actively moving to television to tell their stories.

“Film, or at least the independent film world, used to be the place where all the experimental and kind of off-beat stories were told,” he continues, “but now there are so many platforms for those particular things… Mr Robot, Orphan Black… all these very strange and wonderful worlds are being explored on television.

”He goes on to point out that film is lagging behind in several areas.

“Television’s changed the landscape really and kind of upped the game. Movies need to be better, movies need to be more exciting, movies need to be representative of the world and inclusive of who’s in it to compete with television.”

And with studios mostly backing bankable superhero hits, are there off-beat stories simply not being realised at all?

“I don’t think they’re not being made, I just don’t think there are as many of them being made and they don’t get distributed the way indie film used to be distributed, mainly because people don’t want to take the risk.”

Jackson is currently starring in Tim Burton’s new film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children as nefarious but comedic villain, Barron.

He says he enjoyed working with the director for the first time, finding him “very enthusiastic and very open to my creative suggestions.”

Sam sometimes makes up to five films a year. I ask him what he’s looking for when he’s handed scripts.

“I particularly want a good story, a story i want to be a part of and a story I want to tell and think I can make richer for an audience,” he says. “Sometimes it’s as simple as choosing a role that’s part of something like what I would want to go and see when I was a kid.”

This would make sense with regard to the family-friendly Burton film and a few other projects he has lined up: Kong: Skull Island and xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

The actor may be an incredibly hard worker, something he thinks is born out of his beginnings in the struggling theatre world, where you’re always hungry for the next job, but he still finds time to relax.

I ask him to debunk the rumour that he has a clause in all his film contracts allowing him to play golf during shoots, but it turns out it's real.

“It’s still part of my, what’s known as a perk package, things that you’ve asked for, being able to play golf twice a week and they pay for it.” It also includes a multi-region DVD player because he watches a lot of Asian films, and occasionally video games. 

Miss Peregrine’s is all about children with ‘peculiarities’, in this case, magical ones, but what’s Sam’s?

“I always used to think my peculiarity was that I stuttered, ‘cause I stuttered badly when I was a kid and people tend to make fun of you because you’re not like them. This is a story about embracing your peculiarities and rejoicing in them, learning how to be normal in a world that considers you as abnormal.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is in cinemas now.