'Django Unchained': Samuel L. Jackson on playing 'the most hateful negro in cinematic history'

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How do you feel moviegoers will receive the violence in this movie?

One thing about Quentin that’s great is, he makes these movies and we know they’re violent, we know they’re funny, we know they’re all these other things. But he doesn’t flinch from the atrocity. Slavery was horrible. Lots of bad things happen. I don’t think we’ve ever seen people torn apart by dogs, or how people were thrown in and out of the hot box. It’s in your face. And it’s honest. America tends to sugarcoat slavery — you see negroes out in the field picking cotton, and they’re singing a song. That never happen. People went out there, sun-up to sun-down, and were beaten for not getting up or left there to die.

In talking about the Academy Awards, I think a lot of people love your performance but I’ve heard some people say it’s almost too discomforting to vote for. Maybe they feel guilty because Stephen is such an ultimate Uncle Tom, and just too twisted, too dangerous. What would you say to someone thinking like that?
Well, the point of that award is that you were an actor in a film who made a dynamic impact on the story with a memorable character. And would anyone else playing the part have been as impactful? That should be the question — did you do your job? Yes. Did I make you hate me? Yes. Did I inhabit the character full enough to make you believe that, and make you uncomfortable enough to make you hate me? Yes. And you feel guilty because then you want to see me die. I did what I was supposed to do for that film, which should be the criteria for voting or not voting.

Was it uncomfortable for you to inhabit someone as despicable as Stephen?
I did spend a lot of time being concerned about Kerry when we were doing the scene where Leo and I were jerking her around and ripping her clothes off. She’s one of those actresses who kind of hangs on to stuff for a minute. So when Quentin says ‘cut,’ she’s back in the kitchen crying, and I’m going in saying, ‘All right, are we going too hard? Do I need to tell Leo not to grab you that hard? Is he spinning you around too much? … All right, come on — give me a hug. Smile!’ But I don’t hold on to stuff.

So Method Acting isn’t part of your process?

I’ve done all the stuff I need to do to get where I need to get before I get to work every day. I don’t need to walk around in my trailer breaking stuff or look in the mirror and make faces. I’ve done all that during rehearsals.

Then it must not have been hard for you to leave Stephen behind.

No, when you say ‘cut,’ I’m done. When you say ‘action,’ Stephen shows up. But when the director says ‘cut,’ I’m Sam.

Read more:
Samuel L. Jackson versus Anne Hathaway in an epic ‘sad off’
This week’s cover: ‘Django Unchained’ draws its guns
‘Django Unchained': Jamie Foxx on portraying slavery and filming on an actual plantation
‘Django Unchained': Three new clips include Jamie Foxx facing off against Globe-nominated Leonardo DiCaprio — VIDEO

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