For Samuel L. Jackson, the scene that dramatically concludes right before intermission* in Quentin Tarantino’s latest (more than three-hour) film The Hateful Eight is all about the epic speech his character gets to deliver.
For everyone else, it’s all about the blow job.
In the long flashback scene, Maj. Marquis Warren (Jackson) — an ex-Union soldier and bounty hunter — describes to Gen. Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern) in a slow, detailed, dramatic fashion, that he had a chance encounter with the ex-Confederate general’s son, whom he was in search of. As the images that correspond with Marquis’s words play onscreen, he says he met Smithers’ son, forced him to strip naked, held him at gunpoint, and, when he begged for warm clothing, Marquis told him he’d comply if he went down on him. And in the sequence, he does.
The scene, Jackson said, was in the script from the first time he read it. “It was always that moment of, Hmm. OK. This is a great speech. Let me see if I can do this. It was all about getting it there, putting it in the right context, seeing it, getting it out there, understanding who I was doing it to,” he told BuzzFeed News in a recent interview. “And Bruce is just such a great character to have and to say something like that to.”
The only question Jackson — and some of his co-stars — had for Tarantino was: How many people would audition to play a character who walks through the snow naked and simulates a blow job on Jackson — and nothing more? “Then we thought about it, and go, ‘Well, it's a Quentin Tarantino movie. Probably a lot!’” Jackson said. “I asked that question in the [Screen Actors Guild] screening. I said, ‘How many of you would audition for that guy?’ And they were all like...” he paused and raised his hand. “Oh. OK. Gotcha.”
When it came to film that scene — which Jackson did opposite actor Craig Stark — he was prepared, and actually honored. “To be able to tell a story like that, and to tell it with a straight face, in context, and give it the weight that it needs to be an honest and true and hateful-ass story, it’s a real privilege.”
The actor smirked, then added: “[But] you gotta decide, is it the truth or not?” We’ll likely never know the answer to that. (We still don’t know what was in that briefcase in Tarantino’s modern classic, 1994’s Pulp Fiction.)
Jackson heaped praise on Tarantino, who wrote the scene — though the actor did put his signature spin on it, delivering the unedited realness we’ve seen him expertly pull off many times before. “I just do what I do,” Jackson said. “[Tarantino] wrote it, I had an opportunity to massage it, work on it, and put the beats together.”
The Oscar-nominated actor said he stepped inside of Marquis’s mind for a moment as he tried to re-create the flashback. Marquis is the lone black man in the room and it’s clear that he’s worried the elderly white man who fought to keep slavery alive wants him dead. But if Marquis outright kills the ex-general, he’d be in trouble with the law. So instead, he taunts Smithers with the salacious story about how before he killed his son, he laughed as his boy performed oral sex on him. The general grows angrier at the image, and soon, he reaches for his gun, giving Marquis the ammunition he needs to fire his weapon at the old man and kill him.
“It’s like, Well, all right, so they said I can’t just kill this old motherfucker so I gotta do something. So, I figure, I got it!” Jackson said of what he imagined Marquis was thinking. “It’s a drop-the-mic kind of thing.”
Jackson likened the moment to the one in Pulp Fiction in which his character Jules Winnfield recites an epic speech before he finishes off his victims. More than 20 years later, when fans approach the actor, it’s often the thing they mention. (Well, that and his very Samuel L. Jackson way of saying "muthafukkah.")
Of course, Jackson understands the audience’s inevitable reaction to the blow job moment itself, but, according to the actor, the focus should really be on what he imagines will go down in cinematic history as another one of Tarantino’s over-the-top scenes that climaxes with a powerful speech — and it won’t just boil down to him getting head from another man.
“Just doing the speech, most of the crew hadn’t heard it. The first time it happened, you could actually hear a pin drop on set. Everybody was like, Daammnn. Wow. And then somebody started clapping, somebody else started clapping, so it was kind of like, Oh my god!” Jackson said. “This speech is it. This is the one.”
*Note: There is an intermission in the roadshow version of The Hateful Eight, which was released on Dec. 25. The films goes wide on Dec. 31 with a slightly shorter version that has no intermission.