In Soul Men, Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac star as former members of a legendary soul trio whose frontman abandoned them three decades earlier (much like Lionel Richie dropped the Commodores first chance he got). When their former frontman dies, the old friends hit the road for New York and the Apollo Theater to perform at a tribute concert that Mac's character hopes will jumpstart a reunion tour. But this movie -- despite being a laugh-out-loud riot at times -- won't be remembered for how entertaining it is; it will be remembered as Mac's last movie. He died shortly after shooting it. I sat down recently with Jackson to talk about Mac, Soul Men and some upcoming comic book movies you might have heard about.
CH: My favorite aspect of the movie is the degree of cool you and Bernie bring to your parts. You strut; you swagger; you make it look effortless. It's a degree of confidence not many in your line of work have.
SLJ: We were kind of grown when it happened for us, [Bernie and me]. The level of hard work that we know we put in, and the pay off for it, kind of gives you a reason to feel like, "I earned it, I deserve it, and I can stand up a little straighter." [Our] two characters, also, you look at those two guys, they are two guys that Bernie and I recognize and know in a very real way. They are guys of a certain age, but they grew up together. They were kids together. They know a lot about each other.
CH: Do you have a favorite moment behind the scenes with Bernie? Something you'll always remember?
SLJ: No. We knew each other. We've known each other for a very long time. I've known Bernie for like fifteen years or so, and we talked, hung out, so seeing him everyday was just part of the blessing of being able to do something, finally finding something that worked for both of us. So, no, nothing special. I was just glad he made it everyday.
CH: Having been friends with Bernie over the years, did you see his health go up and down?
SLJ: I guess it was up and down. Everybody knew Bernie had been sick and had been in and out of the hospital. He's also the kind of guy or performer that he's one of the "show must go on" kinds of guys. By the time we got ready to do the film he was physically able to do the things we needed him to do in the film. There were days when he was a bit more robust than others, but he always showed up and did his job.
CH: This is the best performance of Bernie's career, for my money. Did he know how good he was in the movie?
SLJ: Probably. Aside from the fact that I told him every day, and we talked about it every day. The really sad thing, the saddest thing for me ... [is when] I heard he was dead ... the first thing I thought was, "Damn, Bernie ain't going to get to see the movie." But, if you had to pick a vehicle and say, "This is the last movie you'll ever get to do," and an audience watches this film, it will be the Bernie Mac that they knew and loved. The Bernie Mac that came into their homes every week, the guy that was the King of Comedy, and made them pee on themselves when he was doing his act. It's a fitting last performance for somebody to remember him by. All the elements of the Bernie that people knew and loved are in this film.
CH: As we reminisce about him today, it sounds like you're not too nostalgic about what happened. Is that the way that Bernie would have wanted to be remembered?
SLJ: He would have found a way to make a joke about it. If I weren't here doing this thing [instead], he would have had something funny to say about it. He would have been poignant, and then he would have been funny ... [clears his throat; prepares to be funny:] He died one day, then the next day [our co-star] Isaac [Hayes] died, so somebody said to me, "Do we need to get you to a safe house?" [laughs]
CH: How much fun is The Spirit going to be?
SLJ: Hopefully a lot for people. I've seen it; I loved it, and it's got its own space. A lot of people think it's going to look like Sin City, but it's not. It looks totally different. It's a real live-action cartoon, because we get to do some kind of outrageous stuff to each other.
CH: How badass is your character, the villainous Octopus, going to be?
SLJ [grinning]: Pretty crazy.
CH: Do you think Nick Fury, the character you're playing in the Marvel movies, will get his own movie? Is that something you'd want?
SLJ: I would love that, but [first] you got to be part of Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America -- and then The Avengers will probably happen at some point.
CH: Is David Hasselhoff pissed at you for taking over the role of Fury after his stellar performance as the character in that horrible TV movie?
SLJ: I saw him the other week. He didn't seem to be.