Samuel L. Jackson stars in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, “Django Unchained,” as a house slave named Stephen for Leonardo DiCaprio’s villainous Calvin Candie. He plays the part with gusto, a loyal slave who Jackson called a memorable character, mostly due to the fact that he is despicable. In the movie, Stephen does anything his master asks him to do, but at the same time seems to be just as racist as his master, hating almost all the other slaves, believing they are beneath the white man.
“I hope he’s reviled, and people want to see him die,” Jackson said. “People enjoy him, but it’s strange. He’s a funny guy in a way, despicably funny. People laugh at Stephen and what he does, but you know they do want to see him dead.”
Jackson has received some of the most memorable roles in Quentin Tarantino’s films. Here is a look at how he has reinvented himself in each movie, always playing a despicable character, yet one that audiences still seem to connect with.
Believe it or not, Jackson read for a role in Tarantino’s first film, “Reservoir Dogs.” He didn’t get the role there, and didn’t even know that Tarantino was the director, mistaking him for a really bad actor auditioning for a role as well. However, he impressed Tarantino, who wrote the role of Jules specifically for Jackson to play in “Pulp Fiction.”
Jules was one of two hired hit men for a mob boss named Marcellus Wallace. The movie is known for its intense violence, quirky humor, amazing musical soundtrack and some of the best dialogue in movie history, with highlights coming between Jules and Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta. Jules remains known as the killer who quotes Bible scripture before gunning down his targets, and while they are both killers, they remain the best characters in a film full of them.
Next up for Tarantino was the criminally underrated “Jackie Brown.” The movie plays out like Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon,” where we see the same event taking place from different individuals points of view, until the pieces of the puzzle start to become clear. Jackson plays Ordell Robbie in the movie, a mobster and guns dealer. It is clear when we first meet him that he is another crazed over-the-top character, as he watches a video of girls in bikinis with big guns, alongside ex-con Louis Garza, played by a very mellow Robert De Niro.
Tarantino brought back Jackson for a smaller role in “Kill Bill” and the role of the narrator in “Inglourious Basterds” before giving him another plum of a role in “Django Unchained.” What makes Stephen so impressive in the movie is that a lesser actor could have gone full “Uncle Tom” in the role, but Jackson played him with a deep hatred and menace, making him as much a threat as the evil ranch hands to slaves. Add in some more amazing dialogue and Jackson proved yet again to be one of Quentin Tarantino’s greatest weapons.
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