Samuel L. Jackson Interview – RESURRECTING THE CHAMP

     August 21, 2007

Opening this Friday is the new Rod Lurie movie “Resurrecting the Champ.” The film is about a struggling sports reporter (Josh Hartnett) who encounters a homeless man who calls himself “Champ” (Sam Jackson). After talking with him, Josh determines that he’s boxing legend Battling Bob Satterfield who was believed to have passed away long ago. Soon, telling Champ’s story becomes Erik’s title shot. What begins as the young journalist’s opportunity to revive Champ’s story and come out from under the shadow of both his father’s as well as his wife’s success becomes a very personal and life-altering journey.

The film is based on reporter J.R. Moehringer’s real-life experience writing about Satterfield in his 1997 article “Resurrecting the Champ.”

To help promote the film, I recently got to sit down with most of the cast and director Rod Lurie to participate in roundtable interviews. So posted below is the roundtable with Sam Jackson.

If you’re a fan of Sam, you’ll love this interview as he talks for a long time on a variety of subjects. We cover this film, what’s coming up next, what he’s recently done and he even talks a bit on his one day on “Iron Man.” Seriously, it’s a great interview.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or download the audio of the interview as an MP3 here. Later today I’ll be posting a lot more interviews from the film so make sure to check back.

“Resurrecting the Champ” opens this Friday.

Question: So 1408 did really well.

Samuel L. Jackson: Yeah, it did.

Were you surprised?

Yeah, I guess so considering the kind of movies that kids go to. The slasher, chop ‘em I like too, I have nothing against that so I was kind of surprised that a psychological kind of horror film worked that well for so long.

Were you originally going to go down to Comic Con with Jumper because I’m just curious?


I was curious because Fox had this big presentation and then at the last second…

I didn’t know that.

…yeah it had to do with footage about a lot of rated R stuff. Alias vs. Predator 2, Hit Man, Jumper. They had a big presentation then cancelled it and I was curious if you were originally…?

No. I was never part of it, sorry.

You’re so good in this I was just wondering if you love boxing and if you’d based this on any person you might have spoken to or was this just a creation out of your own consciousness.

Just a creation. Just a creation out of my consciousness. Yeah, I did box when I was younger, but yeah, it had nothing to do with this.

Now here you’ve created the whole look of the character.

Sort of, yeah. I generally have a big hand in that or I read stuff and I give it to my makeup artist and I give it to my hairdresser and everybody gets a chance to make up their own mind about what they think he looks like and then we kind of sit together and start to do stuff to it. Al has this great program. He can put my blank face on his computer screen and we can like pull hair from places and put it on and we can do stuff to my face.

How long did it take to put on?

3 hours. Not a big deal, I could go to sleep.

Oh, you did?

Yeah, get in the chair, lay down and go to sleep and they’d start pulling on my face and I don’t even feel it. I could sleep in a shit storm they tell me.

When you saw yourself the first time did you know, ok, I can be…

Yeah, when I finally saw the creation…the end of it was kind of like yeah, ok, great but the one thing that was missing was my teeth and Al was painting them like he does on that thing and I was like no, that’s still not right. So then I called my dentist Dr. Greco and asked him to make me some crooked teeth from a guy who’d never had braces and had been a fighter and was missing some…oh, sure I can do that. So I went and got the mold made and he made the teeth and I just kind of went for it and everything. It was kind of great.

How was it working with Rod Lurie as a director?

Rod actually directed us? I knew he was there. I heard him say action and I heard him say cut. Other than that he didn’t actually do very much. You know, he stayed out of our way. I heard him talking to the film crew about what lens he wanted to use here and there and he’d go ok, action. That’s the way I like my directors to be—out of the way. Let me do what I do and they do what they do and hopefully the can edit. It was kind of cool like that.

I’m curious—people have mentioned that you like one take. Is that the way you are in all films? Or is it certain projects? I was curious more about the whole Star Wars thing and were you just able to do one take on that?

With George, yeah. George is even better about it because amazingly when you’re doing Star Wars there’s people are sawing and people hammering, there’s stuff going on around you because they’re building the sets for the next shot or the next scene or the next day or the next week so you know you can start talking and (saw sounds and hammering sounds) and George will go ok print that–that’s great. You know you got a little bit anyway. They’re going to put all the stuff in it. So it’s kind of cool like that.

When you were doing the scenes with Josh, did you between takes maybe you not speak to him or did you discuss things well, because your character doesn’t give anything away to him? I’m just wondering what your demeanor was with him on the set? If you rehearsed, if…?

When the director says cut I become Sam. Sometimes I look at him and I just start laughing because you know, he’ll have messed up something and I just go (laughter) and or he’ll go was that ok and I go yeah, man that was fine, whatever you want to do or we’ll get the last couple sentences twisted because Josh likes to build into it. I got used to it kind of ok, Josh likes to do this at least 4 times.

And you didn’t mind?

Nothing else I could do about it. Whether I minded or not didn’t matter. There was nothing I could do so you hit your head and you do it. You do what the other actor needs so they can do what they need to do.

You try to accommodate your colleagues.

Always. You do the best you can.

That’s different from Sinatra who was notoriously one take.

There’s lots of actors too that just don’t do off-camera. You know, if you’re on the other side of the camera and you know, they can’t see them then they just kind of go and they let the stand-in do it or somebody else do it.

I bet you don’t do it?

No, I enjoy it. There are only so many acting opportunities in a lifetime so you’ve got to take them.

Did you think this was one of the greatest opportunities this film, this role?

Greatest opportunities? It was another opportunity. I think all of them are the greatest while I’m doing them because like I say there are only so many. You only get so many jobs in your lifetime and you kind of have to jump on them and do them when you can do them and give all of them your best.

I’m curious if your Shield movie is 2009 or 2010?

I have no idea. I have no idea if I’m even going to do one. I have no idea if I’m in Iron Man or not. People keep talking about it.

It’s possible that you and maybe Hilary Swank have one day parts.

I’ve heard that. I’ve heard that, yeah.

If you were hypothetically in the movie, which of course you weren’t, but if you were, what drew you to wanting to play—hypothetically—possibly playing a character like that?

Well, because I knew who Nick Fury was when I was a kid and it’s really amazing to me that he actually…he was this white guy who used to be in the Army with this ground called the Howling Commandos and as I grew up, he actually grew up to be me in the comic book now. When I look at the comic book I go wow, Nick Fury looks a lot like me now. So I figure it’s got to be interesting to play a guy who used to be white who’s now black and like me.

Did you hear about how well the footage was received at Comic Con?

No, I did not.

They didn’t show hypothetically if you were in the movie but the footage that played was the talk of the entire convention.


It was the A , homerun, Barry Bonds destroying it. It was amazing.

That’s good to hear. Maybe I will let them do me in there.

Just throwing that out there.

Now, you’re co-producing The Cleaners. Is The Cleaners similar to the character the cleaner in Pulp Fiction?

No, see everybody seems to assume that. This guy is actually a cleaner. He cleans up death sites, accident sites. What most people don’t know—actually I laugh in the movie every time I try to explain it-it sounds like I’m doing quotes from the movie—when somebody dies in your house or you have a car accident or you’re on the street somewhere whatever–when somebody dies in your house after the police have been there and the coroner comes and takes the body away, you’re responsible for cleaning it up no matter how messy it was. If it was brains all over the place or blood every where, they’ve been lying there for 3 days and they leave their skin outline on the floor, it’s your responsibility to clean it up. This guy comes to your house and he does this service for you and that’s what I do in the film. I clean up biohazards.

There’s a scene in Pulp Fiction where there’s a little cleaning of the car or something in Pulp Fiction?

Yeah, but that’s different. Yeah, different kind of thing. But he’s actually a cleaner so.

So you’re not Harvey Keitel?

No, no, no. He’s actually a business man. He cleans up.

Is this a thriller?

Yes, it is. Well, the police do give him jobs, so one day he gets a police report saying that he’s supposed to go to this house and clean up this site where somebody was murdered. He gets there and there’s blood and brains and all this stuff all over the place and he cleans the place up. He forgets and takes the key and he goes back the next day to return the key and he meets the wife who doesn’t know her husband’s been killed. She has no idea that there’s been a murder. He doesn’t tell her and he’s got to figure out who sent him to the house. He’s cleaned up a murder scene, now what?

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How often have you produced?

Maybe 4 times. Eve’s Bayou, Cavesman’s Valentine, Formula 51 and this the Cleaner. Maybe something else. Not a lot. Because I’ve been around the script for a long time and I liked it. I kind of pulled a lot of elements together. I got Randy to do it which was a joy to see Randy do something other than a big action picture. I just wanted to make more money off it than they offered to pay me.

That’s an honest answer. You’re teaming up again I believe with Bruce Willis for something or did I read that wrong in the press…?

They’re shooting that movie right now with Lawrence Fishburne and no Bruce Willis.

See how accurate these notes are? Let me rephrase that. You are one of the hardest working men in show business. Can you give us an update of what you’re attached to in the future?

What I’m attached to in the future? Right now I’m shooting Lakeview Terrace with Neil LaBute. In October I start The Spirit with Frank Miller.

You told us that at Comic Con. You play Octopus?

Octopus, yeah.

You said that to us. Are you tremendously looking forward to having him as a director?

Yes I am. I’m anxious to get down there and start doing that film. It’s going to be great.

I was going to ask, has he told you anything or has he alluded to you about the casting of The Spirit?

I keep asking him and he says nobody else has been cast. I was the only person right now that’s totally locked in.

He said to me he’s having a tough time getting people to audition and he wants to make sure the chemistry is right.

Um. Well agents do that because they start saying I don’t want my client to read, because sometimes they don’t want you to realize the client can’t act. I’ve never been afraid of that. It’s kind of like, sure I’ll read. No problem.

Did he show you the script? Or did you just know Frank Miller?

I read a script, yeah. That’s pretty exciting.

So you’re playing in The Spirit. Is there something past The Spirit or is that the farthest on the horizon?

Right now, yeah. I have kind of a survival film that I’m trying to get up that may get up. At one point we had the kid who directed Old Boy was attached to it. But something happened last week, something about him not being able to get final cut or something so he fell out. Now we need to find a new director.

Is the LaBute script one of his pleasant scripts or one of the ones where people may want to burn down the theatre?

Hmm. It’s a script about this nice little inter-racial couple that moves in next door to a racist policeman who’s trying to run them out of his neighborhood. So, there you go.

I wanted to know for the people who aren’t familiar with The Spirit and the character. Could you talk about your character in that film, or is it confidential?

The Octopus? No, I guess if people had read the comic they’ll know who he is. He’s like the crime kingpin of this kind of city sort of like Gotham City I guess. They have their own little metropolitan place that this guy is like the crime kingpin of and Spirit is kind of a mysterious character that shows up all the time to save the day like Batman does in Batcity. The Octopus is indestructible kind of tough guy, psychotic killer. The kind of thing I’ve been wanting to do for awhile.

I just have to say and I’m speaking for all fans that all of us can not wait to see what’s he’s going to be doing.

Yeah, we love Frank so we can’t wait to jump in there.

I’ve seen homeless people on the street and I’ve given them a blanket or given them… and that’s it.

Yeah, things just happen. I don’t necessarily know why they happen sometimes but they just kind of happen and fortunately I’ve had the opportunity to talk to homeless people. So, I’m not saying I understand them or I know but I know everybody’s got a story. They just didn’t spring up out of the sidewalk as a homeless person. They’ve got a story. Champ has a identity and that identity for him is as Champ. I was this guy who was #3 in the world and I was all of this and all of that and da, da, da, da, fought this guy and fought that guy. When you see him there’s something about him that says ok, that guy was a fighter and you can see that, so he’s too old to exercise so he stays in shape by doing his road work, so he jogs and carries his stuff and kind of moves that way. That’s his movement. That’s his fighter’s movement. Now, the voice is another kind of interesting sort of thing that just occurred to me and I looked in the mirror and I started thinking, thinking, thinking, and I heard my grandfather’s voice. It was my grandfather’s. He had this kind of high pitched whisper that always made me lean over and say what did you say Pop? It was always he was pulling me toward him with his voice. I thought it was interesting that Champ would have that and even if people thought he smelled bad or whatever when he talked they wanted to hear what he said they had to get close to him. It kind of makes you do that in the audience too, I kind of watched people when I saw the film for the first time. He was always saying something that’s interesting.

How much of a strain was it to use that voice consistently?

None whatsoever actually. One of the things that kind of keeps me focused in it and gives me something to do while I’m doing it and to kind of hone in on it ‘cos my wife said when she saw it she was sitting there and she’s going ohhhh as soon as I started speaking. She started shaking her head and I knew what it was and it was her saying to herself ok, can he told onto this the whole picture or when does he go in and out of it. By the time it was over she was kind of like…he held onto it. Because we’ve watched so many films where people start something and they don’t finish it or they start out limping on their right foot and before you know it they’re limping on their left foot and you’re kind of going wait a minute. Exactly, yeah.

Was it interesting and did it influence your performance at all to shoot down there with all the homeless people there and did you chat with them and get to know them?

In Calgary?


Well, yeah. It didn’t inform the performance you know. It was kind of interesting watching them react to me or the first time I kind of show up and not knowing it was me, which is kind of rewarding in its own way. This guy saw me walking by with a cigarette and he went hey….We started talking for a minute and then I move on up. Yeah, being able to shoot in that shelter lends some authenticity to it especially when you’re in a place like Canada. You need to do all you can to create an American feel because you know there’s so many times you see people shooting films in Canada and the extras they hire to say something and you go “that’s not American”.

I wanted to ask you a whole other brave question because I am wrong or did MGM totally screw up the marketing of that film?

Do you want me to say that in a recorder?


Yeah, I bet you do! I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to that movie. They released it a couple of times.

Sort of.

Ok, if you say so. I don’t know. I have no idea what happened. I showed up for the premiere the other day and I did press for it and I don’t know. I have no idea.

Diplomatic answer.

Is it frustrating though for you if you do something you really, really love and maybe it’s not…I’m not saying that but anything but maybe it’s just not in your control?

Well, none of it is in my control. Movies are a crap shoot. You do them and you hope people like them and you hope people get out to see them. It’s kind of like…I loved Black Snake Moan. I loved that picture and I think as much as I liked the poster I think the poster kept a lot of people out of the film. Then there was some interestingly wrong hitted reviews of the film so that when people did discover it on DVD they were kind of like, “oh man, I loved that movie, I loved that movie” so they’d tell other people. So I get the satisfaction later on because people did discover it and it’s a shame that it didn’t do box office figures or whatever, but I still hope that by the end of the year those people that get screeners that Paramount will send screeners to people so that Christina can get some sort of recognition for being brave enough to do that particular thing. That’s one of the things that happens that was the last film of the old Paramount regime. So, the new Paramount regime didn’t feel like they had an obligation to do a lot for that particular film. They were kind of busy pushing Crash…Bennenton…what’s that movie Babel.

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