Interview with Jackie Brown's Pam Grier (2024)

Everything about Pam Grier is big. Big personality. Big stature. Big resumé. Big talent. Even her nose, which the journalist Mark Jacobson once called her "best feature, [which] juts away from her face defiantly—a warning, a dare" in his famous feature, "Sex Goddess of the Seventies." She has been a living icon for some time, ever since the writer-director Jack Hill discovered Grier and cast her in several films—first 1971’s The Big Doll House, and subsequent blaxploitation classics like _Coffy _and Foxy Brown.

In the intervening years, Grier maintained an aura of iconography, if not fame. Then in 1996, while deciding on a follow-up to his culture-cracking 1994 movie, Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino cast Grier, then 47, in his adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch, which became the 1997 film Jackie Brown. Tarantino adored Grier, changing Jackie’s race to African-American to suit his star. The film, a surprise at the time in that it was a slightly moody noir caper flick about aging and imperfection, introduced Grier to a new generation of film fans, and reminded a legion that she was once the first black female action star. Nearly 15 years since it was filmed, we talked to the 62-year-old actress about the film on the occasion of its release on Blu-ray (along with Pulp Fiction.) Grier, working steadily for more than 40 years, was giddy recalling meeting Tarantino, her legacy as a performer, and the mystery of her chemistry with co-star Robert Forster.

GQ: What’s it like looking back on Jackie Brown, 15 years after you made it?

**Pam Grier: **Well, it’s Quentin Tarantino, and he made a remarkable, extraordinary film that has had legs—people are still seeing it today or revisiting it for the 5th or 6th time and seeing something different each time and are thoroughly enjoying it. The amount of fan mail I get from Greece and the Netherlands and China, and people stop me in the street and go, "Jackie Brown!" You know how all of Quentin’s being, all of his craft, every film and music score he studied as a young boy to where he is today, is reflected in that film.

GQ: When did you first meet him?

**Pam Grier: **I met him on the street, on Highland Avenue. If you go up to Sunset, there’s a theater on the corner. I was in traffic with a friend of mine, a filmmaker, named Warrington Hudlin, of the Hudlin brothers. We were sitting in a car, I was driving, and there was this man in shorts and a T-shirt talking to a beautiful woman on the side of the road in traffic and as we start scooting close toward the intersection, he sees my friend, who says, "Hey! Hey! Quentin! Come here!" And goes, "It’s Pam Grier!" And Quentin goes, "Pam Grier! I’m writing a screenplay for you!" I go, "Yeah, right." I thought, this is Quentin Tarantino saying it out on the street... I think he was barefoot, he didn’t have on sandals or flip flops. I’m going, _Really? Pulp Fiction? This is him? Okay... He’s had a bad night, obviously. _He said, "No, I’m writing a script and I just love you!" And he’s raving on and on, and I said, "My God, it’d be fantastic if you send it to me, I’d love to see it." You know, Quentin Tarantino, he’s such an artist. And six months later, the script shows up at my apartment in New York, with 44 cents due. I keep getting these stickers from the post office saying they’ve got an envelope from L.A. with 44 cents due. I thought it must be someone selling mattresses or something, I don’t know, so I tape the money to one of the notices and they leave the envelope with the script in it, and I open it up and there is Jackie Brown based on the novel by Elmore Leonard, written by Quentin Tarantino. And... the Earth stood still. Time stopped. I just stood there. He did it. He’s invested this much time out of his life to write this and I read the note, and he said, "Read it and call me and tell me what you think." Well, that was three weeks ago. I sit down and read it, and go, "I’m probably going to play Bridget Fonda, Ordell Robbie’s girlfriend,"—she’s a black chick who’s a sexy hot drug dealer, and I go, "Oh, I can play that because I did Fort Apache, The Bronx and I got a lot of offers because I did it so well." I said, "Oh, he’s funny!" I totally didn’t even think about Jackie Brown, that role, because it was the lead. I’ll probably get third or fourth or fifth lead or something like that. I called him and he asked what I thought, and I said, "It’s really extraordinary, it’s just amazing, I love the plot, your turning points of course! It’s you!" And he said, "Do you like the role? I thought you didn’t like it and that’s why you didn’t call." I said, "No, I just got it. There were 44 cents due." And on the envelope, there are stamps all over the corner where he licked it himself, thinking it was enough! So I said, "Which role am I gonna play?" And you can hear the silence over the phone. Then, "Jackie Brown." I’m thinking, "Naw, really?" and I can hear him thinking, Oh, she’s dumb. She’s dense. I just could not realize that someone had written such a strong lead role for me and if I didn’t do it, he would do something else. I was just honored and humbled and, it doesn’t happen to you every day. Maybe to Meryl Streep. But it was just wonderful. When the envelope came, I thought, How is he gonna get enough financing? He didn’t have enough money for stamps? Now it’s going to be on Blu-ray. So, you think they’re going to do Jackie Brown like they did Catwoman, three times? With Zoe Saldana? [laughs] Or Willow Smith? [laughs]

Interview with Jackie Brown's Pam Grier (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Reed Wilderman

Last Updated:

Views: 5586

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Reed Wilderman

Birthday: 1992-06-14

Address: 998 Estell Village, Lake Oscarberg, SD 48713-6877

Phone: +21813267449721

Job: Technology Engineer

Hobby: Swimming, Do it yourself, Beekeeping, Lapidary, Cosplaying, Hiking, Graffiti

Introduction: My name is Reed Wilderman, I am a faithful, bright, lucky, adventurous, lively, rich, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.