Jackie Brown

USA 1997, 154 mins
Director: Quentin Tarantino

The Friday 9 September screening will include a pre-recorded intro by Pam Grier.

Please be advised that this film contains racist language throughout.

‘Quentin said: “You know what? What you did and who you were are still very important… these kids today see something and feel something… They just like the fact that you stood up, and were a hero… And who do we have to look up to now? There’s you…. you know… Black Jane Bond.”’

Jackie Brown is a middle-aged flight attendant who smuggles money from Mexico into the United States for Ordell Robbie, an old school, tough-talking LA gun runner. With Robbie involved in a murder and Jackie intercepted by the police with cash and cocaine on her, she chooses to go to jail than rat him out. Some time later, Jackie must hatch an elaborate plan if she is to avoid being targeted by Robbie herself. Tarantino’s thrilling homage to the blaxploitation films of the 70s (Coffy and Foxy Brown) introduced the great Pam Grier to a new generation as well as cementing her place in film history as cinema’s first female action star.
Mia Mask, season programmer

Quentin Tarantino on Pam Grier and ‘Jackie Brown’
Obviously, you did some very fresh and dramatic things with the book [Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch ] not only just in terms of location but the way in which you did change and develop the characters and the casting. When you say you saw that movie in your head from the start, had you always seen it in that way, and thought ‘I want Pam Grier for that role and I want to turn it round in that way’

Not when I first read the novel. After I decided I was going to do this, it was more a question of, ‘Who can I get to play this role.’ I was getting ready to settle down and write this thing. When I am reading novels, even if I have no intention of adapting them at all, the moment I am reading them I am adapting them, so I always have a notebook and I will be writing down different actors’ names who could possibly play the characters. I did not do it. When I read Rum Punch the second time, I had no intention of doing it myself; it just kind of snuck up on me.

I started to think who could be Jackie Brown, knowing the attributes she had to have; she had to be 44 but look like she was 34; she had to look great, and she had to look like she could handle anything. Writing down different white actresses – because it was a white character in the novel (Jackie Burke was actually her name), some of the people I thought could be good were too young. That is standard operating procedure; they would make her 35. I didn’t like that at all. It was so important to the character that she be in her 40s. Then Pam popped in my head. It was one of those things that I knew a good idea when I saw it. I thought Pam is perfect for the role. She is the exact right age. She looks younger, and she looks like she can handle anything. By doing that, it turned it into a Pam Grier movie. Nothing wrong with that. That sounds good; another Pam Grier movie I would like to see. Then it became very easy. The fact that she is black ended up giving the piece even more depth; not in a cheesy way or a cheap way. At the end of the day it is a movie about a woman making $16,000 a year. She has worked in a service industry. She should have got out of the airline industry when she got busted a long time ago, and started something new. She did not. She has worked her way down the ladder. She is hanging on by her fingernails with this shitty ass job; she has got nowhere to go; she is basically working the stars, and she is going to lose that. At 44 she is probably going to have to go to jail for a year and start all over again. The cops are fucking with her. It made the dilemma more crystal clear, having to be a black woman in that situation. It just gave it more depth.

Could you tell me how black culture has affected you as a director and also with your scriptwriting?

I kind of grew up surrounded by black culture. I went to an all-black school. It is the culture that I identify with. I can identify with other cultures too; we all have a lot of people inside of us, and one of the ones inside of me is black. Don’t let the pigmentation fool you; it is a state of mind. It has affected me a lot in my work. To try to point out would kind of be beside the point; you just see it; it is there. In the case of Jackie Brown, it really enabled me to be able to write truthfully, heartfeltedly and realistically, and to become the characters of Jackie Brown and Ordell. You have heard of method acting; I am a method writer. I become the characters as I am writing them. That is how I am able to get them to talk to each other. I am everybody. I am Louis. I am Melanie. The way I write my dialogue is to get them to talk to each other, and then they are doing it, so it is all coming from me. I know some of the people in my life I have admired the most were older black women. I have a lot of respect for them, so I was able to bring all of that into Jackie Brown. As far as Ordell, I was a little crazy; for around a year I just walked around as Ordell. I could not shake them. It was a spell I was under and I could not break it because I did not want the work to suffer from it.

The obvious follow on from that is there is a great deal of admiration of your film viewing and with Jackie Brown specifically you have talked a little bit about your love of black exploitation movies, and obviously Pam’s past in some of those terrific movies. I just wondered what you could say apart from casting Pam, because of your admiration for those movies, about the influence those movies had on the structuring of Jackie Brown , if anything.

It is not a black exploitation film. Having said that, Pam is such an icon. To one degree or another, it is like casting John Wayne in a movie. You cast John Wayne in a Western, you are not just dealing with this unknown figure walking in there that you have got to learn about. For some audiences that will be the case, but that is not where I am coming from. John Wayne has got a whole past behind him, and his past is built up from these other movies. That is good baggage. Some baggage can be very, very good. By casting Pam, I did term this in my mind to a Pam Grier movie, but it was a Pam Grier movie with its feet on the ground more. That is not putting anything down, because Coffy is one of my favourite movies, actually; I love Coffy. Jackie Brown is a real human being. She is not a super bad momma – she is a kind of super bad momma to tell you the truth! – she does not get razor blades in her afro, and she is not kung fu-ing people, and she is not pulling a sawn off shotgun and blowing a guy’s head off. She is realistic; she is a real lady in those dire circumstances that I described.

One of the things I liked about the opening credit sequence is if you are familiar with Pam’s movies, a whole lot of them start with Pam just walking, and beholding the glory that is Pam. I thought, OK, I will make me the greatest Pam Grier opening sequence of all time. I think I pulled it off actually. The structure of it is very interesting. It is not supposed to be naked to the eye, but it starts off that she is on the conveyor belt, and you see her, you are drinking her in, you are taking her in, and she is walking down the airport and she just looks like the baddest creature a guy ever created. She has just got all this power and strength – and she is Foxy Brown 20 years later, she is Coffy 20 years later – and she has all this womanness, and it is great. In the last part of it you see she is running and running, and you realise she is just trying to get to work. She is not walking down the street to burn Harlem to the ground. She is a woman working in this world, and she is late for her job, and she is going to get fired if she does not get there. After the big bad ass opening credit sequence, two minutes later she is serving peanuts. So it starts off as this mythical, super hero figure and then by the end of the credit sequence we have brought it back down to earth.
Quentin Tarantino interviewed by Adrian Wootton and audience at BFI Southbank, January 1998

Written and Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Production Companies: Miramax, A Band Apart
Executive Producers: Richard N. Gladstein, Elmore Leonard, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Co-producer: Paul Hellerman
Production Co-ordinator: Dawn Todd
Production Manager: Deborah Cass
Location Manager: Robert Earl Craft
Post-production Supervisor: Heidi Vogel
1st Assistant Director: William Paul Clark
2nd Assistant Director: Rick Lange
2nd 2nd Assistant Director: Pilar Savone
Script Supervisor: Martin Kitrosser
Casting: Jaki Brown, Robyn M. Mitchell
Based on the novel Rum Punch by: Elmore Leonard
Director of Photography: Guillermo Navarro
Camera Operator: Dan Kneece
Steadicam Operator: Dan Kneece
Animator: Norm Hvam
Editor: Sally Menke
Associate Editor: Tatiana S. Riegel
Production Designer: David Wasco
Art Director: Daniel Bradford
Set Designer: Mariko Braswell
Set Decorator: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
Costume Designer: Mary Claire Hannan
Costume Supervisor: Karla Stevens
Set Costumer: Lee Kartis
Key Make-up Artist: Ermahn Ospina
Samuel L. Jackson’s Make-up: Marietta Carter-Narcisse
Robert De Niro’s Make-up/Hair: Ilona Herman
Michael Keaton’s Make-up: Bob Mills
Samuel L. Jackson’s Wig Created by: Victoria Wood
Key Hairstylist: Robert Louis Stevenson
Michael Keaton’s Hairstylist: Mary L. Mastro
Titles/Opticals: Pacific Title, Mirage
Production Sound Mixer: Mark Ulano
Boom Operator: Jerome R. Vitucci
Re-recording Mixers: Michael Minkler, Frank A. Montaño
Supervising Sound Editor: Stephen Hunter Flick
Stunt Co-ordinators: Steve M. Davison, Kiante Elam
Very Special Thanks to: Jack Hill, Susan George, Peter Fonda, Helmut Berger, Tony Curtis, Tom Snyder, Peter Bogdanovich, Arnold Rifkin, Scott Spiegel, Samuel Fuller

Pam Grier (Jackie Brown)
Samuel L. Jackson (Ordell Robbie)
Robert Forster (Max Cherry)
Bridget Fonda (Melanie)
Michael Keaton (Ray Nicolette)
Robert De Niro (Louis Gara)
Michael Bowen (Mark Dargus)
Chris Tucker (Beaumont Livingston)
Lisa Gay Hamilton (Sheronda)
Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister Jr (Winston)
Hattie Winston (Simone)
Denise Crosby (public defender)
Sid Haig (judge)
Aimee Graham (Amy, Billingsley sales girl)
Ellis E. Williams (Cockatoo bartender)
Tangie Ambrose (Billingsley sales girl 2)
T’keyah Crystal Keymah (Raynelle, Ordell’s junkie friend)
Venessia Valentino (Cabo flight attendant)
Diana Uribe (Anita Lopez)
Renee Kelly (cocktail waitress)
Elizabeth McInerney (bartender at Sam’s)
Colleen Mayne (girl at security gate)
Laura Lovelace (steakhouse waitress)
Christine Lydon, Julia Ervin, Juliet Lon, Michelle Berube, Gillian Iliana Waters (chicks who love guns)
Candice Briese, Gary Mann (the deputies)
Jeffrey Deedrick, Roy Nesvold, Herbert Hans Wilmsen (the sheriffs)

USA 1997
154 mins

A Park Circus release

The Big Doll House
Fri 2 Sep 18:15; Sat 10 Sep 20:50
Women in Cages
Sat 3 Sep 20:50; Fri 16 Sep 18:10
The Big Bird Cage
Sun 4 Sep 18:00; Wed 14 Sep 20:45
Black Mama, White Mama
Wed 7 Sep 20:45; Sat 24 Sep 20:50
Pam Grier: Icon and Trailblazer
Thu 8 Sep 18:15
Thu 8 Sep 20:40; Sun 18 Sep 13:00; Thu 22 Sep 18:00
Pam Grier in Conversation
Fri 9 Sep 18:00
Foxy Brown
Sat 10 Sep 14:45 + Q&A with Pam Grier; Tue 13 Sep 20:40; Mon 3 Oct 18:10
Greased Lightning
Sun 11 Sep 12:00; Thu 15 Sep 20:45
Sheba, Baby
Sun 11 Sep 16:10; Mon 19 Sep 21:00
Friday Foster
Mon 12 Sep 20:45; Wed 21 Sep 20:40
Original Gangsters
Fri 16 Sep 21:00; Tue 20 Sep 21:00
The Arena
Sun 18 Sep 18:30; Tue 27 Sep 20:50
Philosophical Screens: Jackie Brown
Tue 20 Sep 20:30
In Too Deep
Tue 27 Sep 18:15; Mon 3 Oct 20:50
Fri 30 Sep 20:50; Tue 4 Oct 18:20

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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