Pulp Fiction and Star Wars star Samuel L Jackson, who picked up his lifetime achievement award at the Dubai International Film Festival on Wednesday, is renowned for speaking honestly on issues from race relations to gender equality and American politics, so when The National sat down with him Friday morning, we couldn’t avoid checking whether his yearning for Diff was heartfelt or the result of an unexpected PR makeover for the famously confrontational star.
“I’ve been trying to get her for a long time,” Jackson insisted. “I’ve known about this film festival for years and I’ve been trying to get here, but I’m usually working. This time last year I was in Hawaii doing King Kong, then on my way to Australia and Vietnam. The year before that I was in London doing Kingsman, the year before that I was somewhere else, so I just haven’t logistically been able to get here, but I’ve been trying to get here, and I’m really glad I finally have.”
Jackson may have only been in town for a few days, but he seemed to like what he had seen.
“Dubai, like New York, LA, London or Berlin, is a unique city,” he said “It’s different than being somewhere else in the UAE, I’m sure, because of its international quality and its openness to tourism. It’s very different to the rest of the world, so I can’t judge the whole UAE on Dubai, but I can judge Dubai on what people said it was going to be like, and I enjoy the peace here. It’s kind of peaceful here, even though there’s all this excitement going on, I don’t feel any jeopardy.”
The actor’s first impressions of Dubai seemed to contrast with some of his previous international jaunts.
“There’s some places you go, like the first time I want to South Africa, I knew it was dangerous. I was in Jo’burg just after it had been liberated and I knew I couldn’t walk around by myself. Here I know I can walk around by myself and I don’t have to worry about anything. I don’t need a lot of people around me to feel I can do anything and be safe.”
The star may be thrilled to have finally reached Dubai, but there’s at least one place that won’t be on his ‘to-do list’ while he’s in town — Donald Trump’s recently opened golf course. Jackson, a keen golfer, has been a vocal critic of the US president-elect throughout the election campaign, and when asked whether he’d be checking out Trump’s latest venture he offered a simple “Nah, I’m good thanks.”
Reports in the US media have claimed that Jackson would be seeking to move out of the country in the event of a Trump victory, but the star was dismissed any ideas that his trip to Dubai was part of a global house-hunting mission. “Not really. I’m not looking, Everybody thinks I am, but I’m not,” he insisted.
In fact, despite his reputation as an activist — Jackson was an usher at the funeral of Martin Luther King in 1968 and was imprisoned following a civil-rights protest a year later — he remains remarkably stoic about Trump’s election victory.
“I guess I’m known as kind of a political individual of sorts. People know who I am and where I stand,” he said. “But I think now people like me are just feeling the way that all those people that hated Barak [Obama] felt for the last eight years. It’s just been a flip. I mean a lot of people voted for the dude. It’s not like he stole the election. A lot of people voted for him. More people voted for Hilary, but OK, fine.”
Indeed, Jackson seems to have a healthy critical disregard for the US presidency as a whole. “Look, for eight years a lot of people hated Barak, while half the world was going ‘wow America’s got a black president, that’s so cool, it’s really growing.’ Well now we know America didn’t grow so much. These people were just laying in wait and now we’re on the other side going ‘I can’t wait for this guy [Trump] to be gone. Well, we’re gonna have to wait at least four years now while they get what they wanted, or at least what they think they wanted.”
All in all then, it seems safe to say that Samuel L Jackson had not had an unexpected PR makeover in advance of his Dubai debut.