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Samuel L. Jackson: Space Mace Part One

The award winning actor talks about STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES

By Chris Wyatt     May 21, 2002


Mace Windu in EPISODE II
© and TM 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd.
Some STAR WARS fans where a little surprised when PULP FICTION's original hardcore badass, Samuel L. Jackson, was featured in EPISODE I as Yoda's friend and confidant. But Jackson's legendary talent has made Jedi Master Mace Windu one of the most popular STAR WARS characters ever.

A long-time fan himself, Jackson's excursion into the STAR WARS universe began when he personally contacted creator George Lucas, asking for a part in the film.

"The first time I met George out here at the ranch, he told me, 'I'm not sure why you want to be in this. Your part will be like: duck, run, shoot!' And I told him, 'Fine. I don't care. You can make me a stormtrooper if you want. You don't have to even tell anyone I'm in it. I just want to be a part of it,'" says Jackson.

Amidala and Anakin fight to keep their love alive in STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES



"It's the fulfillment of a dream. When I was a kid I would watch films like this that were adventurous and then go home and pretend to be a hero. Fighting imaginary foes with imaginary swords. It's great to pick up a lightsaber and be in the middle of all that for real."

Maybe Jackson would have settled for a part as a stormtrooper, but he was overjoyed when he was awarded the role of a Jedi Master.

"I was told I was going to be Mace Windu, but I didn't know what that meant because I hadn't been given a script. They said, 'show up at costuming' so, when I did, the first thing they started putting on me was Jedi robes. I said, 'What's happening here? I'm being transformed into a Jedi!'"

"Then I got this script and I had a conversation with Yoda. It was amazing. By the time George said action, I was like 'Wow!' I don't know what he saw in me, but I'm glad he saw it."

"It's like when he brought on Hayden [Christensen as Anakin Skywalker]. I said, 'George, who's the new kid?' and he said, 'I found a great kid who's got this edge and you can believe that there's a Darth Vader inside of him.' When I met Hayden I saw what George meant."

In fact, Jackson believes that Lucas' casting abilities are impeccable.

Samuel L. Jackson and his wife at the STAR WARS: EPISODE II premiere. (2002 Copyright Sue Schneider)



"George is smart. He casts people who bring specific things with them. Even though he didn't know much about me when I first approached him, I guess he discovered something about me that made him make me Mace Windu and not some Queen's guard."

"Once George explains what he wants his actors to accomplish in a particular scene we just go out and do it for him. Being a Jedi is a pretty calm situation. We don't get into huge screaming matches."

Jackson enjoyed being a part of EPISODE I even though fans didn't universally appreciate it.

"PHANTOM MENACE was a kiddie movie. The hero of the movie is eight years old. If you can't put yourself in the shoes of an eight year old, you'll have problems with the film."

"It's easy for people to be Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in their minds. It's hard to see yourself as an eight year old hero. You ask the average kids between 8 and 12, they loved that movie. And some adults, the ones that were able to open their minds to it, they loved it too."

"It's one of those things," Jackson shrugs. "It's hard to watch a kiddie movie and relate to it if you're not childlike in some way."

Jackson also doesn't think much of complaints that EPISODE I inappropriately exploited racial stereotypes by depicting aliens with exaggerated ethnic characteristics. These critics particularly pointed at the character of Jar Jar Binks, who they felt was a negative African American figure.

"The movie is a kiddie movie," Jackson reiterates. "Jar Jar Binks is any 9 to 12 year old's favorite character in the movie. The fact that we want to put ethnic connotations with characters is kind of interesting to me."

Samuel L. Jackson in CHANGING LANES



"I found myself doing it the other night, as soon as the cloner female came on the other night, I though, 'Oh, she's very Zulu.' But she's not that, she's an alien cloner. Or the four-armed cook in [the] diner. He's obviously Italian...but he's not! He's whatever he is in George's story. People tend to do that kind of association, but it isn't valid."

"So for people to 'go there' about Jar Jar and the Gungans, well, it's kind of silly. Just watch the movie!"

But Jackson does believe that EPISODE II will satisfy the viewers that didn't appreciate the first film. "There's a more mature approach to this movie," he says.

Jackson praises Lucas as a director for more than just his sense of casting.

"George is always that calm in the middle of that STAR WARS storm. All the technical crap that's being thrown at us while we're trying to get ready to do what we need to do. He's the one person that's still and there. He's an anchor."

With EPISODE II's shift to an all digital format that anchor was more important than ever. The digital shift created new technical difficulties, but it also had its benefits.

"We were shooting on video, so we got more done in the course of a day. You work the same way, you just got more done because you didn't have to wait for two hours while they changed lights and set this up or set that up. You can make it brighter, you can make it darker, and then move on."

Check back tomorrow for part two of CINESCAPE's interview with Samuel L. Jackson.

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