It is not uncommon for certain directors to gather a group of actors around him or herself to be used again and again in their films. Some of Hitchcock’s best films star either Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant, for example. Martin Scorsese used Robert DeNiro in several films before switching over to Leonardo DiCaprio in more recent years. An Ingmar Bergman movie is bound to have either Max von Sydow or Liv Ullmann, or both, turn up in it. It’s certainly no different with Quentin Tarantino, who has kept a number of people working with him over the years both in front of and behind the camera.
There have been performers that have been used here and there – in fact, the cast for The Hateful Eight has enough returning actors to Tarantino’s movie universe (Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, James Parks, a handful of actors that appeared in his previous movie, Django Unchained) that it’s almost a class reunion. Yet one of the most prolific of these actors has been Samuel L. Jackson, with seven appearances in Tarantino-related movies. Nearly eight, in fact. And even a couple of times where the parts originally written for Jackson ended up not being the parts he ultimately played.
The Quentin Tarantino FAQ book goes into more details about the various movies the writer / director has been involved over the years, as well as other aspects of Tarantino’s career. Such as exactly how Samuel Jackson has continued to thread his acting career through Tarantino’s films over the years.
True Romance (1993)
Tarantino has built himself a reputation for keeping promises to actors that he says he wants to work. This was the case with the casting of Pam Grief and Robert Forster in Jackie Brown (1997), after promising both that he had them in mind for roles in a movie. It was also true of Jackson for Pulp Fiction.
Or, at least that’s how the story goes. According to Laurence Fishburne (“Fishburne Glad He Turned Down Pulp Fiction,” Contactmusic, November 11, 2009), he was given the script by Tarantino and told that the role had been written with him in mind. After reading the script, he declined the part stating, “I decided not to do it, because I couldn’t respond to the part. …It didn’t feel like something I needed to do.” Thus, Jackson was asked if he wanted to play the part and he readily accepted.
But there was a catch that Jackson was unaware - he was expected to audition for the role. Thinking the part was his, he found out right before production was to start that actor Paul Calderon had the role because Jackson had never auditioned. Tired and angry, Jackson traveled to Los Angeles in order to do a last-minute audition for Tarantino, Lawrence Binder and Miramax’s head of production, Richard Gladstein. To put him into an even worse mood, he came into the audition with someone telling him, “I love your work, Mr. Fishburne.”
Arriving with some carryout from a fast-food joint, Jackson seeped with anger that played perfectly into his audition for the trio. As Lawrence Binder said to Vanity Fair, “He was the guy you see in the movie. He said, ‘Do you think you’re going to give this part to somebody else? I’m going to blow you away.’”
Convinced Jackson should play the role, Paul Calderon was given the smaller role of English Dave, the bartender at Marsellus’ strip bar. Calderon would go on to play Norman, the guy about to lose a finger at the party in Tarantino’s segment of Four Rooms, as well as a variety of parts, big and small in movies and television.
Flash-forward: In February 2014, Los Angeles KTLA reporter Sam Rubin interviewed Jackson about his role in the remake of RoboCop. During the interview, Rubin asked Jackson about his recent Super Bowl ad. Problem was, the Super Bowl ad featured not Jackson, but Laurence Fishburne. It was obvious that the reporter had made an innocent mistake during a live interview, and for the most part Jackson took it with good humor, but no doubt he probably felt it was simply par for the course.
Tarantino’s venture into adapting a novel for the big screen came after the success of Pulp Fiction and with through a desire to make a movie based on a novel by one of his favorite author, Elmore Leonard. The novel was Rum Punch, which was stated to go into production with Tarantino as the producer and a female director never named making the film. Instead, Tarantino wrote the script and decided to direct it himself, leading to him hiring Jackson to play the world of Ordell, a ruthless arms-trader who thought himself smarter than he actually was.
When Tarantino began writing the Kill Bill script, he had one actor in mind, as he told Brian Helgeland in 2003 (“Screenwriters are (Obsessive, Creative, Neurotic) People, Too,” moderated by Lynn Hirschberg, The New York Times, November 9, 2003): “I definitely often write for Sam Jackson. I know his rhythms. I feel like he can turn my lines into poetry. In fact, the character of Bill in Kill Bill, when I first put pen to paper, was Sam Jackson. And finally I had to stop it. I knew I didn’t want to cast Sam Jackson as Bill.”
Instead, Jackson would make a brief appearance near the beginning of the second Kill Bill movie as Rufus, the piano player at the Two Pines Wedding Chapel. It was almost a family affair on the Kill Bill set, as Jackson’s wife, LaTanya Richardson, was originally hired to play the character L. F. O’Boyle in the second film. You don’t remember a character called that in the second Kill Bill movie? That’s because the scene to feature the character – which would have introduced the audience to Bill by showing him taunting Richardson’s character into trying to attack him so he could kill her. When Tarantino saw how well the opening dialogue between Bill and Kiddo went before the wedding massacre scene, he decided that there was no need for the O’Boyle segment and cut it from the film.
QUENTIN TARANTINO FAQ - out March 11, 2015!