In “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” a buddy romp due out this month, he plays, alongside a square Ryan Reynolds, Darius Kincaid, an assassin with a soft heart. Like Mr. Jackson, Darius is equally relentless about work and pleasure.
By this stage of his career, Mr. Jackson’s gestures are firmly ingrained in Hollywood’s master narrative. One of those gifts is fluency with the sort of language that can be printed in this newspaper generally only when associated with White House intrigue. (“I wish Nick Fury could curse, but he can’t,” he said about his Marvel character.)
So it is comforting that the first words Mr. Jackson speaks at the beginning of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” are something very close to “that’s mighty white of you,” salted with a profane modifier.
He improvised the line — the cursing, and also the racial needling; the film was originally written with Darius as a white Irishman. Mr. Jackson prefers to steer. He is meticulous about preparation and has a deep lack of empathy for colleagues who have foregone the same.
“Sam, like myself, doesn’t suffer fools,” Mr. Lee said. “You don’t want Sam to get in your face on the set.” He let out one of his signature exuberant howls. “Even myself, first thing in the morning on a shoot, I knock on the door: ‘Can I get you some breakfast? What do you need?’”
Mr. Jackson conceded, “I can be a hard taskmaster for some directors.” He is the boss — when he is on set, that is. The option to go golfing twice a week is written into all of his film contracts. And he is allergic to extra takes. “I’m at that point,” he said, “where I can say: ‘Uh, you know, that’s not going to be in the movie, right? We already got it, we got it when we did this, that and that. I’m not going to do that.’
“Then they want to call my agent,” he said, fixing his face into that familiar Samuel L. Jackson pursed-lip expression of arrogant exasperation. “Call whoever you want, ’cause I’m not going to do that. …” — you know where this is going.