When working on Jackie Brown, Pam Grier admitted that her performance left her “exhausted.”
In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment for Jackie Brown’s 25th anniversary, Grier reflected on starring in the 1997 film in which she portrayed a flight attendant caught smuggling money for an L.A. crime kingpin Ordell Robbie (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson) and explained how the biggest issue for her during filming was pace.
“Quentin told me that Sam[uel L. Jackson] had a metronome-like quality that’s really fast, but that I’d have to slow down for Robert [Forster],” she said. “He warned me that not all actors can do that, so I had to learn.”
In the film, Grier’s character executes a plan to escape with the smuggled cash, going against Jackson’s Ordell and enlisting help from bail bondsman Max Cherry (the late Forster).
“Quentin said to slow my pace down to avoid revealing that I’m planning a scheme,” Grier said. “Max knows people inside and out, and knows when they’re fooling him — he can smell me if I’m lying. But I also need him, so it’s not cut-and-dried. That’s why you’re exhausted when you work with Quentin Tarantino and his characters!”
When Grier learned that Tarantino crafted the leading character of the film with the actress in mind, Grier admitted to thinking she was “in trouble” because she knew she’d have to “work really hard,” as she didn’t want to be fired.
After reading the Jackie Brown script for the first time, which was an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s crime thriller Rum Punch, Grier explained that there was a misunderstanding on who would reach out about the project.
“He was waiting for me to call him, and I was waiting for him to call me,” she remembered of Tarantino. “He was getting worried, and told [producer] Lawrence Bender, ‘What if she doesn’t like it? We don’t have anyone else!’ He was concerned, and rightfully so.”
After a few weeks, Grier realized the reason Tarantino didn’t contact her was because he had actually left her a note to call him: “I read the note he had written on the back of the script and realized I was supposed to have called him weeks ago! I figured that he had probably recast the role, but I called him and said, ‘I love the script. What character am I?’ And he said, ‘You’re Jackie Brown.’” Grier said the director knew so much about her personally that he “brought a lot to that script for me.”
Jackie Brown marked Grier’s first major leading role at the time after starring in blaxploitation films in the ’70s including Foxy Brown and Coffy. Forster earned a nomination for the Academy Award for best supporting actor, with both Grier and Jackson also nominated for Golden Globes.
Amid the film’s 25th anniversary on Dec. 25, Grier described working on the film as a “master class in filmmaking” and reignited her interest for directing. “Quentin shared a lot with me that I’m going to be applying to my own work,” Grier said, also sharing that she has completed a script for a World War II film.
During an interview on Bill Maher’s Club Random podcast, Tarantino also reflected on the film and shared a time when a film financier questioned the director on his Jackie Brown casting decision, asking whether he wished he cast “bigger stars” instead.
“And I go, ‘Well, we made $30 million dollars with a movie starring Pam Grier and Robert Forster. I thought that was actually pretty fucking good,’” Tarantino recalled. “His point, though, he goes, ‘That’s all you’ — well, great! I can make a movie with them, and it can do well because I made it? That’s the reason to be fucking famous.”
When Maher questioned what big-name stars of the time could he have cast instead, Tarantino listed Angela Bassett and Robert De Niro (De Niro was ultimately cast in the supporting role of Louis Gara).
Should a prequel to Jackie Brown ever come to fruition, Grier said that though the casting choice would ultimately be up to the director, she’d prefer someone who embodies the “blueprint” of the character. However, she would be involved in the casting decisions should her 2010 autobiography, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, be adapted into a film or television series: “There are going to be little Pams, middle-aged Pams and the Pam that meets Quentin.”