JACKIE BROWN 25 Years Later - A Cinema Scholars Oral History (2024)

Table of Contents
Introduction Jackie Brown – An Oral History Tarantino in a bonus interview found on the Jackie Brown Blu-ray release explained his dilemma- “I thought I was gonna do another one of them…I didn’t think I was gonna do Rum Punch. So I was just getting ready to give Rum Punch to another director that I knew. And in reading it again that night, I fell in love with it the exact same way I did a couple of years before” Quentin Tarantino spoke to The Guardian in 1998 about this difficult challenge- “It was an interesting challenge; it was a very interesting thing to tackle as far as adapting is concerned. I have only written originals…The idea of doing an adaptation, by the sheer fact that the source material is different…It is not the same old thing. It is not exactly what you have become accustomed to. That can just be the difference between night and day. It is still mine, but it does have that once-removed quality by its origin” Pam Grier spoke to Variety in 2017 about reading Tarantino’s script, thinking she was being offered a smaller part- “I was so surprised when the script arrived…When I read it, I didn’t read the note very well that said, ‘Call me when you read it and we’ll talk.’ I must have waited a couple of weeks. So, when I called he said, ‘You’re Jackie Brown.’” Quentin Tarantino spoke to The Playlist in 2020 on casting Robert Forster in his perhaps most iconic role- “I wrote the part, thinking of who I was going to cast in it…Paul Newman at the time would’ve been a great Max. I thought Gene Hackman at that time would’ve been a great Max…I thought Robert Forster would be a great Max Cherry and I thought John Saxon…I’m going one way with two guys, and I’m going one way with the other two guys…and after I watched ‘Alligator’ I was like…this is the character, this is Max Cherry, 17 years earlier” Robert Forster spoke to MovieWeb in 2011 on how being cast in Jackie Brown reinvigorated his fading career- “Oh, my career was dead. I didn’t have an agent, a manager, a lawyer, nothing…I was hoping some kid who liked me growing up would turn into a movie-maker and give me a good job. That’s what happened…Nobody writes dialogue as good as he does. You start out with something that not only comes out of your mouth easily, but it comes out the way thoughts come out of your mouth. He writes stuff that you know is great to begin with” Michael Keaton spoke to Empire Magazine in 2016 on how being cast in Jackie Brown came as a surprise to him- “We go out on Sunset Boulevard, Quentin has us drinking Jagermeister…Firstly, who drinks Jagermeister man? Anyway, I don’t know what happened but the next thing I’m heading home and I’m doing the movie…My agent is all excited and goes, ‘Really? Why?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I just woke up an hour ago and I don’t remember’” Quentin Tarantino spoke to The New York Times in 1997 and discussed casting Samuel L. Jackson- “The hardest part to give up in ‘Jackie Brown’ was Ordell, who is played by Samuel L. Jackson. I was Ordell. It was so easy to write Ordell. I was Ordell for the year I was writing the script. I had to really work hard in letting go of Ordell and letting Sam play him and not being a jerk about stuff. Sam was him for 10 weeks; I was Ordell for 52 weeks…Ordell was all my mentors as a young man growing up. Ordell was who I could have been.” Robert De Niro gave an interview to the French press in 1997 and discussed working with Quentin Tarantino- “I had heard about Quentin through Harvey Keitel who had been working with him…I saw Pulp Fictionfirst…and it was terrific…the sense of humor, the irony, a lot of things that I like in movies and characters…so Quentin and I would run into each other from time to time and get together and talk about different projets, and finally this came along” Quentin Tarantino spoke with The Guardian in 1998 with regards to changing the setting from Miami to Los Angeles- “I don’t really know anything about Miami. I had never been to Miami before. One of the things Elmore Leonard has to offer in his novels, is an expert sense of both Miami and Detroit…I can’t compete with that, and Miami is very hot! You don’t want to got there to shoot! One of the things I do have to offer is that same kind of knowledge about Los Angeles; partly in the area that the area is shot in, in the South Bay…I am very familiar with that area because I grew up around that area. It is one of the things I could bring to the piece; an expert knowledge of that area” David Wasco spoke to L.A. Taco in 2017 with regards to shooting in and around the Southern Los Angeles area- “It wasn’t, ‘Well, this is an option to use the Del Amo Mall.’We were using the Del Amo Mall.We were using the co*ckatoo Inn…The ‘look’ of the film was driven by these interesting places…We were accessed into places that you would have to build now or shoot at a closed airport…They were given the mall…We had to not ever show the name Macy’s” Robert Forster spoke with Birth, Movies, Death in 2011 about working with the iconic Pam Grier- “I knew Pam from her exploitation days…She’d made a bunch of pictures, Coffy and all the rest of them…I was well aware of her…I did not work with her directly in Fred Williamson’s Original Gangsters but I was in the picture…She was working in the gym one day at the hotel we were all staying at. And I passed by the gym and I was with another actor and he looked through the little box window into the gym and he said “oh, look who that is.” And I looked and I saw beautiful Pam Grier” Robert Forster spoke with The Playlist in 2011 about the chemistry that he and co-star Pam Grier had- “That’s one of the things an actor does – he says to himself, “I am going to deliver movie shots that will be in the picture.” Something that makes these movie shots exceptional and watchable… which is why some directors shoot 40, 50, 60 takes. They’re looking for some little special thing that will actually get into the movie. Quentin doesn’t do that…He shot as many as he needed to to get something special” Pam Grier spoke with GQ Magazine in 2011 about how being cast in Jackie Brown had changed her life and career- “It encompasses so much. It’s like watching a 3-D puzzle in your brain. The legacy is that Quentin went back and captured himself, how he grew up, his music, style, artistry, and craft…I don’t know what other people think, but for me, for someone to invest two years of their life, to write something…It probably got me noticed…A lot of people get to see your work, you’re as good as your last job…Let’s see who has a forty-year career. Me and Betty White” Samuel L. Jackson explained his enduring chemistry with Quentin Tarantino in a MasterClass lecture in 2021- “There’s just something very natural in our connection in terms of his art and my talent that mesh in a beautiful and wonderful and creative, joyous, ecstatic, org*smic kinda way…Everybody knows that my job is no more important than yours—and we’re all here to do this together” If You Enjoyed This Article We Recommend: ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST – The Making Of A Western Classic (Click Here) THE EVIL DEAD – A 40th Anniversary Retrospective (Click Here) The Making of ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD (2019) (Click Here) If You Don’t Want To Miss Any Of Our Content In The Future Like Us On Facebook and Follow Us On Twitter and Instagram Related

Introduction

While Jackie Brown is a film that will likely not go down as the most popular release from director Quentin Tarantino, it’s widely seen as one of his masterworks. The 1997 feature is a taut crime-thriller noir, minus the blood-soaked spectacle that is often seen in the director’s other productions.

Tarantino’s faithful adaptation from Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel Rum Punch is celebrating its 25th anniversary in December. In honor of this event, Cinema Scholars presents to you an oral history of the making of this monumental film, as told by the actors and filmmakers who made it.

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Jackie Brown – An Oral History

Quentin Tarantino was red hot after the release of 1994’s Pulp Fiction. His 2nd feature film was a box-office and critical success. In February 1995, the film received seven Oscar nominations, with Tarantino and Roger Avary winning the award for Best Original Screenplay. For his next project, Tarantino’s production company purchased the rights to three Elmore Leonard novels: Freaky Deaky, Killshot, and Rum Punch. Tarantino knew one of them would make a great film, but which one?

Tarantino in a bonus interview found on the Jackie Brown Blu-ray release explained his dilemma-

“I thought I was gonna do another one of them…I didn’t think I was gonna do Rum Punch. So I was just getting ready to give Rum Punch to another director that I knew. And in reading it again that night, I fell in love with it the exact same way I did a couple of years before

Once Tarantino had decided that Jackie Brown would be his follow-up feature to Pulp Fiction, the director had to then tackle writing his first adapted screenplay. While Tarantino owned the rights to Leonard’s novel, the director very much wanted Leonard to approve of his final product.

Quentin Tarantino spoke to The Guardian in 1998 about this difficult challenge-

“It was an interesting challenge; it was a very interesting thing to tackle as far as adapting is concerned. I have only written originals…The idea of doing an adaptation, by the sheer fact that the source material is different…It is not the same old thing. It is not exactly what you have become accustomed to. That can just be the difference between night and day. It is still mine, but it does have that once-removed quality by its origin”

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Tarantino made critical changes adapting Leonard’s novel, including changing the title. However, the most significant change was the alteration of the central character. White stewardess “Jackie Burke” became black stewardess “Jackie Brown.” Actress Pam Grier, who had read for Pulp Fiction, was sent the script by Tarantino.

Pam Grier spoke to Variety in 2017 about reading Tarantino’s script, thinking she was being offered a smaller part-

“I was so surprised when the script arrived…When I read it, I didn’t read the note very well that said, ‘Call me when you read it and we’ll talk.’ I must have waited a couple of weeks. So, when I called he said, ‘You’re Jackie Brown.’”

JACKIE BROWN 25 Years Later - A Cinema Scholars Oral History (3)

The late Robert Forster received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of bail bondsman Max Cherry in Jackie Brown. However, several other actors were considered for the role, including Paul Newman, John Saxon, and Gene Hackman. However, after Tarantino saw Forster in the movie Alligator (1980), Tarantino knew he had his man.

Quentin Tarantino spoke to The Playlist in 2020 on casting Robert Forster in his perhaps most iconic role-

“I wrote the part, thinking of who I was going to cast in it…Paul Newman at the time would’ve been a great Max. I thought Gene Hackman at that time would’ve been a great Max…I thought Robert Forster would be a great Max Cherry and I thought John Saxon…I’m going one way with two guys, and I’m going one way with the other two guys…and after I watched ‘Alligator’ I was like…this is the character, this is Max Cherry, 17 years earlier”

JACKIE BROWN 25 Years Later - A Cinema Scholars Oral History (4)

Robert Forster spoke to MovieWeb in 2011 on how being cast in Jackie Brown reinvigorated his fading career-

“Oh, my career was dead. I didn’t have an agent, a manager, a lawyer, nothing…I was hoping some kid who liked me growing up would turn into a movie-maker and give me a good job. That’s what happened…Nobody writes dialogue as good as he does. You start out with something that not only comes out of your mouth easily, but it comes out the way thoughts come out of your mouth. He writes stuff that you know is great to begin with”

Tarantino convinced Michael Keaton to portray federal agent Ray Nicolette in Jackie Brown by getting him drunk on Jagermeister. The director took Keaton out to a Los Angeles bar to go over the details. However, the Oscar-nominated star states that he has little recollection of accepting the part due to his inebriation.

Michael Keaton spoke to Empire Magazine in 2016 on how being cast in Jackie Brown came as a surprise to him-

“We go out on Sunset Boulevard, Quentin has us drinking Jagermeister…Firstly, who drinks Jagermeister man? Anyway, I don’t know what happened but the next thing I’m heading home and I’m doing the movie…My agent is all excited and goes, ‘Really? Why?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I just woke up an hour ago and I don’t remember’”

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Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson portrays the main antagonist in Jackie Brown, Ordell Robbie, a dangerous and powerful Los Angels black-market drug dealer and gun dealer. Originally, while Tarantino was writing the script, he had intended to play this role himself. It was a difficult choice to give the part to someone else.

Quentin Tarantino spoke to The New York Times in 1997 and discussed casting Samuel L. Jackson-

“The hardest part to give up in ‘Jackie Brown’ was Ordell, who is played by Samuel L. Jackson. I was Ordell. It was so easy to write Ordell. I was Ordell for the year I was writing the script. I had to really work hard in letting go of Ordell and letting Sam play him and not being a jerk about stuff. Sam was him for 10 weeks; I was Ordell for 52 weeks…Ordell was all my mentors as a young man growing up. Ordell was who I could have been.”

Tarantino and screen legend Robert De Niro knew each other before production started on Jackie Brown via their mutual friend and collaborator, Harvey Keitel, as well as a mutual acting teacher they shared. Although the role of enforcer Louis Gara was first offered to Sylvester Stallone, he turned it down. The rest is history.

Robert De Niro gave an interview to the French press in 1997 and discussed working with Quentin Tarantino-

“I had heard about Quentin through Harvey Keitel who had been working with him…I saw Pulp Fictionfirst…and it was terrific…the sense of humor, the irony, a lot of things that I like in movies and characters…so Quentin and I would run into each other from time to time and get together and talk about different projets, and finally this came along”

When Quentin Tarantino began production on Jackie Brown, he changed the location from Elmore Leonard’s own South Florida to South Los Angeles, specifically El Segundo, Hawthorne, Torrance, and the surrounding beach communities. This change was critical in turning an Elmore Leonard novel into a Quentin Tarantino film.

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Quentin Tarantino spoke with The Guardian in 1998 with regards to changing the setting from Miami to Los Angeles-

“I don’t really know anything about Miami. I had never been to Miami before. One of the things Elmore Leonard has to offer in his novels, is an expert sense of both Miami and Detroit…I can’t compete with that, and Miami is very hot! You don’t want to got there to shoot! One of the things I do have to offer is that same kind of knowledge about Los Angeles; partly in the area that the area is shot in, in the South Bay…I am very familiar with that area because I grew up around that area. It is one of the things I could bring to the piece; an expert knowledge of that area”

Jackie Brown production designer, David Wasco also worked on Reservoir Dogs,Pulp Fiction,Kill Bill,andInglorious Basterds for Tarantino. Wasco was essential in helping Tarantino bring to life the unique South Los Angeles look and feel that has come to define the film 25 years later.

David Wasco spoke to L.A. Taco in 2017 with regards to shooting in and around the Southern Los Angeles area-

“It wasn’t, ‘Well, this is an option to use the Del Amo Mall.’We were using the Del Amo Mall.We were using the co*ckatoo Inn…The ‘look’ of the film was driven by these interesting places…We were accessed into places that you would have to build now or shoot at a closed airport…They were given the mall…We had to not ever show the name Macy’s”

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In Jackie Brown, at the center of Tarantino’s 1997 film, is the budding chemistry and relationship that develops between Pam Grier’s Jackie and Robert Forster’s Max Cherry. The electricity between the actors onscreen is undeniable and drives the film forward. Forster and Grier had previously worked together before, reuniting with Jackie Brown.

Robert Forster spoke with Birth, Movies, Death in 2011 about working with the iconic Pam Grier-

“I knew Pam from her exploitation days…She’d made a bunch of pictures, Coffy and all the rest of them…I was well aware of her…I did not work with her directly in Fred Williamson’s Original Gangsters but I was in the picture…She was working in the gym one day at the hotel we were all staying at. And I passed by the gym and I was with another actor and he looked through the little box window into the gym and he said “oh, look who that is.” And I looked and I saw beautiful Pam Grier”

Robert Forster spoke with The Playlist in 2011 about the chemistry that he and co-star Pam Grier had-

“That’s one of the things an actor does – he says to himself, “I am going to deliver movie shots that will be in the picture.” Something that makes these movie shots exceptional and watchable… which is why some directors shoot 40, 50, 60 takes. They’re looking for some little special thing that will actually get into the movie. Quentin doesn’t do that…He shot as many as he needed to to get something special”

Jackie Brown was a commercial success upon its release in December 1997. Additionally, Grier and Jackson were both nominated for Golden Globe Awards. Forster was rightfully nominated for an Academy AwardforBest Supporting Actor. The film had reinvigorated his career. Both Grier and Forster saw a resurgence in the intervening years.

Pam Grier spoke with GQ Magazine in 2011 about how being cast in Jackie Brown had changed her life and career-

“It encompasses so much. It’s like watching a 3-D puzzle in your brain. The legacy is that Quentin went back and captured himself, how he grew up, his music, style, artistry, and craft…I don’t know what other people think, but for me, for someone to invest two years of their life, to write something…It probably got me noticed…A lot of people get to see your work, you’re as good as your last job…Let’s see who has a forty-year career. Me and Betty White”

There may be no actor that has benefitted more from the professional collaboration and personal friendship with Quentin Tarantino than Samuel L. Jackson. The actor has worked with Tarantino on more films than he’s worked on with any other director. Jackson and Tarantino also have a lot in common with each other as they both are only children and share a love of Asian cinema.

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Samuel L. Jackson explained his enduring chemistry with Quentin Tarantino in a MasterClass lecture in 2021-

“There’s just something very natural in our connection in terms of his art and my talent that mesh in a beautiful and wonderful and creative, joyous, ecstatic, org*smic kinda way…Everybody knows that my job is no more important than yours—and we’re all here to do this together”

If You Enjoyed This Article We Recommend:

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST – The Making Of A Western Classic (Click Here)

THE EVIL DEAD – A 40th Anniversary Retrospective (Click Here)

The Making of ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD (2019) (Click Here)

If You Don’t Want To Miss Any Of Our Content In The Future Like Us On Facebook and Follow Us On Twitter and Instagram

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