Monday, Aug. 2, 1999 | 9:58 a.m.
Samuel L. Jackson is ready for another "deep" role -- this time in a film that's being described as " 'Jaws' on steroids." We decided to dive in feet first and talk to Jackson about his newest film, "Deep Blue Sea," in which he plays the financial backer of a dicey medical experiment that goes awry, creating genetically-enhanced, super-smart sharks. Of course, they chow down on mere mortals.
We discovered new depths to this acclaimed actor that we couldn't even begin to fathom. OK, we know the ocean metaphors are a little shallow, but we promise this interview is really something to sea.
WARNING: The following interview contains major movie spoilers. Continue reading at your own risk!
Question: "Deep Blue Sea" looks like it's going to be a big hit. Were you happy with the final film?
Answer: Oh, yeah. This film works on all the levels we had hoped it would. I think that this film is going to be a great way to end the summer for the moviegoing public.
Q: It was a surprise to see you get eaten so early in the film and right in the middle of your big monologue.
A: Yeah, I do my Robert Shaw thing (laughs). I get to do my big Robert Shaw speech.
Q: Were you actually in the shark's mouth?
A: No! (looking shocked), heck no! I always pretended I was. That was the plan that I get it early on. It ups the ante on the whole movie for the rest of the people, because if these sharks can kill me, they can kill anyone at any time. You never know who's going to survive and who's not. In movies like this, you have victims. It's part of going to see it ... (wondering) who is going to get killed (laughs).
Q: The last time a major star was killed so early on was Steven Seagal in "Executive Decision."
A: We were all glad that he got killed (laughs). That's a different exit and it's like, "OK! The movie is going to be watchable now!" I'm basically like Janet Leigh ("Psycho") or Drew Barrymore in "Scream." (Director) Renny Harlin came to me and said (Jackson doing his Harlin impression with a thick Finnish accent), "It's going to be the most incredible death! It's going to shock everyone!" I said, "OK, Renny, I'm down with that." I died a lot in movies in my early career and I've never been killed by any "thing" before.
Q: Why do a horror film?
A: I watched a lot of monster pictures growing up and we would go home and someone would pretend to be Dracula or Frankenstein and chase us and we would run from them. Someone would be Godzilla and jump out of a tree and scare your friends. This was an opportunity to finally be in a movie like that and run away from something that's bigger and stronger, with sharp teeth and claws. I got to say stuff like "Look out, look out! Go this way! Ahhh! Ahhh!" Even though I didn't get to be that panicky.
Q:You could still keep acting after almost going into the drink?
A: It was acting still, but everyone was kind of (upset) because they hit us full on with three tons of water. That was not supposed to happen and we didn't have safety harnesses on and we were flailing around on this deck.
Q: How did they dump all that water on you inside the lab?
A: We standing looking at this window and were looking at all of these things. They look like dumpsters and they each hold a ton of water. They have Xs on them and they told us that was Stelan (Skarsgard, who plays Jim Whitlock) who the sharks are tossing at the window of the lab. Our job was to watch him coming closer and closer and Renny would shout at one point, "The glass breaks down!" The water would start coming in and we were wet again. The interesting thing was that the room was on an elevator, because we were in a 60-foot-deep tank that they built the set in. They started to pour the water in, then they started to lower the room, so the water would come in faster and fill up quicker. It was a race to get to the steps and open the door before the room would fill up.
Q: Did you think that you lucked out because you didn't have as much water work as the rest of the cast?
A: You know, I thought that when I read the script but all of a sudden I got there (and) I was a lot wetter than I figured that character would ever be. I was wet every day for two months. Once the sharks break into the laboratory, all bets are off. We were always trying to get to dry places but we had to go through a lot of wet places to get to the dry places. That storm sequence was no joke. It was intense out there at night and we did that scene for over a week. It's about a 110 degrees down in Baja during the day and when the sun goes down it's about 75 degrees and being that hot all day long, it feels more like 30 degrees. And, when you get wet, you're definitely more uncomfortable. Then, when they start throwing tons of water at you, it starts to get really hairy.
There is always a certain point in the night when you're tired and hate to get wet again, soaking wet again, after you manage to get your temperature back to a certain level. The salt water stung your eyes and things happen. There was one accident that happened that's still in the movie. I thought that was pretty funny when I saw it in the final film. I said, "Oh, they kept that."
When we get Stelan hooked up to the helicopter and we're trying to get back to the elevator during the storm, the waves are supposed to rush in front of us and behind us. At one point three tons of water got thrown on us by accident and we got swept toward those cargo bays and everyone thought we were going into the drink and people were tumbling around this metal grating. "Oh, they kept it? It really looked that good?" (Laughs.) We scrambled up and kept acting.
Q: How close did you get to the mechanical sharks they used in the films?
A: Very. When they first brought it into the lab we were all in awe of the size of this machine. It was as long as this room (about 40 feet). It was a real monster. I would walk up to it slowly and touch it and they said it felt like a real shark. The gills moved and it had a mind of its own sometimes. When Renny would yell "cut," sometimes the guys couldn't get it to stop. We all wondered about that. "Hmmm, what's going on up there?" It would jump when it wasn't supposed to. It was interesting to be around it and it kept you on your toes.
Q: What's next for you?
A: I start shooting "Shaft" in New York in September. I'm the black private dick who's a sex machine for all the chicks.