Samuel L. Jackson, <EM>Snakes on a Plane</EM> Samuel L. Jackson, Snakes on a Plane

In theaters Friday and not being screened in advance for critics or even cast members, who will see it for the first time at a Thursday-night premiere Snakes on a Plane, starring Samuel L. Jackson as an FBI agent escorting a mob snitch who gets targeted for a clever in-flight "assaspination" via the release of 400 poisonous slitherers, has been the subject of many questions. Such as:

Is that really the title?

If so, who on God's green earth approved it?

Is Snakes on a Plane actually about snakes on a plane?

And: Can a movie about snakes on a plane that's titled Snakes on a Plane be any good?

Reporters greeting Jackson at the Snakes press junket (see related blog entry) had questions, too, the first of which pertained to the inability to screen the pic before talking to him. After all, points out, previewing Snakes could have paved the way for better, "more intelligent" questions. "Intelligent questions...," the actor repeats, chuckling at our suggestion. "Do we have good snakes? Yeah. Do they kill most of the people on the plane? Yeah. Does the plane almost crash? Yeah."

In other words, there was little sympathy from the film's star, who's almost as much in the dark about the final product. "Hey, I'm anxious to see it, too!"

The subject of a massive amount of viral buzz and marketing ever since its title got out, Snakes also starring Julianna Margulies, Bobby Cannavale and Kenan Thompson is poised to take a big bite out of this weekend's box office, thanks to fan support if not the absence of advance reviews. Might the film even prove to be completely critic-proof? "People are going to see it because they want to see it," Jackson says. "It may even be surprisingly good. It's certainly scary, but it's not just a scary movie. It's fun in a lot of different ways, too.

"It's critic-proof in that whoever wants to see this is going to see it," he reiterates, "but in terms of people saying bad things about it and you as an actor having a reaction to that because it's your work, yeah, I'm going to feel bad."

And you do not want to make Sam Jackson feel bad. After all, he has been "on board" this Plane ever since he read in the Tinseltown trades that Ronny Yu, with whom he had worked on 2002's Formula 51, was directing the intriguingly titled thriller. After asking himself, "What's that?" Jackson says, "I e-mailed Ronny, 'What is Snakes on a Plane? Is that a euphemism for something?' He said, 'No, poisonous snakes get loose on a plane.'" Jackson's instantaneous reaction: "Wow, can I be in it?"

"Wow" was the reaction Snakes' eventual enthusiasts had as well, and quickly a grassroots movement formed, resulting in ersatz trailers, one-sheets and songs permeating the Internet. "Everybody just went bonkers," says Jackson, marveling at the phenomenon. "There's no explanation for it aside from people had the same visceral reaction to the title that I did. It's like [Yu's] Freddy vs. Jason: You know who's going to be fighting, now do you want to see them fight? So you go. It's that simple."

Agreeing on how nasty Snakes would be, however, wasn't. Jackson says that Yu, who as a Hong Kong director "tends to think in terms of extreme violence," wasn't keen on delivering a PG pic, and thus was replaced with David R. Ellis (Cellular) ironic, seeing as how New Line wound up pulling the trigger on the R when all was said and done. A wise move, says Jackson. "We can't be going, 'Golly, gee....' I mean, there are snakes on a plane!"

Where might those sinister snakes slither to next? Jackson is bearish on the prospect of a follow-up. "To do what?" he asks. "Snakes on a plane is logical and illogical at the same time, but it's a situation. It's very specific in that you've got people on something that you can't necessarily get off of, with things that are very dangerous and lethal. There aren't a lot of vehicles you can do that with. "Snakes on a Cruise Ship"? Maybe if you're way out in the ocean, but you could still get on a life raft. "Snakes in Space"? I'm not [playing] an astronaut."

Still, if the box office calls for it and the idea somehow happens to be right, Jackson could be up for some more asp-kicking. "If it's fun and it's OK to do, I'll do it," he allows.

In the meantime, he might "freelance" a bit. "If I'm on a golf course and a snake pops up," he says, "I'm hitting it with a club!"

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