In a blockbuster landscape driven by brand-awareness, characters often loom larger than the actors who play them. Samuel L. Jackson stands as an enduring exception.

In a Hollywood hotel suite to discuss his role in the The Legend of Tarzan, Jackson's movie star aura is palpable.

Sporting plaid adidas sneakers, brown pants and a yellow sweater, his head is, as always, is adorned with a Kangol cap. This one is a special Tarzan design he had made for the film's cast and crew.

Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams and Margot Robbie as Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan. Photo / Jonathan Olley
Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams and Margot Robbie as Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan. Photo / Jonathan Olley

Jackson flops down on to a armchair and drapes a leg over the side. At ease though he clearly is, the actor simply can't help but project the kind of tangible presence that comes with being one of the biggest stars in the world and that's before he cracks his trademark killer smile.

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The Legend of Tarzan stars Swedish Alexander Saarsgard (True Blood) in the title role and Australian Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) as Jane.

But it is Jackson and his enduring stardom that's being used to sell the blockbuster, with the his signature voice used to prominently and repeatedly say the title character's name in the trailer.

George Washington Williams, the character played by Jackson, also represents the film's attempts to differentiate itself from past Tarzan movies by incorporating more real-world history.

"He's a real person you can actually Google," Jackson tells TimeOut. "Essentially the first African American to go into the Congo and discover what he suspected - that King Leopold [II, of Belgium] was using slave labour to bring out diamonds, ivory and rubber. Williams was a statesman, a preacher, a soldier, he was a lot of different things."

Williams presence in the film helps The Legend of Tarzan move beyond the anachronistic portrayal of the Congo seen in earlier Tarzan films.

Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan in The Legend of Tarzan. Photo / Jonathan Olley
Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan in The Legend of Tarzan. Photo / Jonathan Olley

"It actually gives some heft to the story," Jackson says. "It will encourage people to take a harder look at what happened historically in that particular country and why it is the place it isnow and the price of decimation of not just the tribes but the animal population."

A presence in innumerable blockbusters over the years, Jackson says the key to staying grounded in such gargantuan worlds is to conceive a personal history for whomever he is playing, a technique developed during his stage-acting days.

"The great thing about George was, there was information to be found, I didn't have to make it all up. So I could figure out what his educational background was, what he'd done, broadly, getting to that particular place.

"How does he relate to these people that he meets? Especially people that look like him and that he's only a generation and a half removed from being on a slave ship. These are the people that his parents are or were. So the warrior spirit of George is alive and well and his conscience works in another kind of way when he reaches the motherland."

Jackson says he can relate to Williams' emotional reaction to being in Africa.

Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams in The Legend of Tarzan. Photo / Jonathan Olley
Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams in The Legend of Tarzan. Photo / Jonathan Olley

"First time I went to Africa and I got off a plane and someone looked at me and said, 'Welcome home' - it was a whole other feeling for me. I was amazed at how relaxed that made me and how comfortable that made feel about being in that particular place even though it was the first time I'd been there. But it started to feel like, as soon as that person said that, that I belonged there, and that I'd been there before. My spirit was very at rest in that place."

For all his memorable performances over the years, Jules in Pulp Fiction remains perhaps Jackson's most iconic role.

"That movie is hugely popular all over the world. There are other people who know me because I'm part of the Marvel Universe, and then there are the legions of Star Wars geeks that really know who I am. I've been accosted by the Jedi council of almost every city I've been to.

Tarzan starring Samuel L. Jackson.
Tarzan starring Samuel L. Jackson.

"I've only been to a couple of places where they didn't know me. In the KwaZulu-Natal in Africa, they don't really have electricity or movie theatres. And only two in Tiananmen Square knew who I was."

Despite failing to secure the status of being 100 per cent world famous, Jackson can't imagine doing anything but acting.

"Well it's my creative outlet. I can't draw. I can't paint. I can't write. This is what I do to express myself and it's always been very exciting for me to inhabit someone else's guise and act something out in a safe environment.

"It's kind of like cheap psychotherapy."

Lowdown

What: The Legend of Tarzan
Who: Alexander Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz
When: Opens at cinemas July 3