When you’ve already directed the best film of the ’90s, what can you possibly do for an encore? That was the dilemma Quentin Tarantino faced after he delivered Pulp Fiction. What he came up with was a two-and-a-half hour homage to ’70s Blaxploitation flicks called Jackie Brown, starring that grindhouse genre’s one-time kick-ass queen, Pam Grier. While Jackie Brown received mixed reviews when it hit theaters in 1997, anyone who’s seen the new Blu-ray edition of the film (which hits stores today) will agree that it’s aged like a fine wine. If anything, it’s a better film today than it was nearly a decade and a half ago now that our post-Pulp expectations have been scaled back. The main reason it works so well is Grier’s powerhouse performance.
We spoke with Grier recently to hear how she landed the role and what she thinks about it 14 years later.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When was the last time you saw Jackie?
PAM GRIER: Two weeks ago. I was curious to revisit it however many years later. It’s been on television a lot. I can’t go to the gas station any more to fill up my tractor because people are like, “You’re our neighborhood superstar!”
I live in Colorado. I have a tractor, John Deere. I have to rake the pastures. Two days ago we stocked a couple tons of bales of hay. It’s about 30 bales per ton. My family is rural. I have horses.
You mention that so many people recognize you from Jackie Brown, but it’s actually one of Tarantino’s less-seen films.
People think he just went from Pulp Fiction to Inglourious Basterds. They don’t know he made a movie with a woman!
Tell me about how you first met Quentin and how he cast you in the film…
We bumped into each other on the street in L.A. Highland Boulevard. He said he was working on his version of one of my old films, Foxy Brown, for me. And he said as soon as he finished it he would send it to me. And lo and behold, he found me. I was in New York and he sent me the script, but he didn’t put enough postage on it and it was sitting at the post office. It had 44 cents due. I kept getting these notices from the post office saying that I had an envelope from Los Angeles with 44 cents due. And I’m thinking, it must be a mattress advertisement or something. After the third notice, I said, Okay, I’ll pay the 44 cents and they brought me this envelope that had ‘QT’ written in the upper lefthand corner. Inside was Jackie Brown.
That must be the best 44 cents you ever spent…
Right! What an investment! It was fabulous. I was speechless. And when I finally called him he said he’d been waiting nervously for two weeks. He thought I didn’t like it because I didn’t get right back to him.
What did you think of the part he wrote for you?
Well, when I was reading it, I actually thought I’d be playing the Bridget Fonda role. Usually the sistas play the drug addict and she dates a black character [played by Samuel L. Jackson in the film] so it just made sense to me that it would be a black woman. I didn’t think there’d be an interracial couple in it. But it’s QT! So I called him up and told him about the 44 cents. It’s funny because the envelope had a lot of stamps on it — he really licked all these little stamps and put them on the envelope himself! He’s probably got mega-gazillions of dollars and he’s licking all these little stamps! You gotta respect that! Anyway, I told him I thought the Bridget Fonda role was fantastic and he goes, No, I want you to play Jackie Brown! I’m sure he was thinking, Is she really this dense?!
I recently read your memoir, Foxy, and was surprised by what a colorful life you’ve had.
Thanks! It’s actually going to be a film.
Are you going to play yourself?
Hell, no! I couldn’t go through that again! I would be in therapy forever.