There's a certain word that Samuel L. Jackson is famous for saying in almost all of his movies. You know the one. It's a swear word. A pretty bad one. It starts with 'M' and rhymes with "otherf*****".
Midway through their new action comedy The Hitman's Bodyguard, co-star Ryan Reynolds' character angrily denounces Jackson's character for having ruined this particular swear word through overuse.
It plays out as something of a meta moment in the film, but when Jackson and Reynolds sit down together in a Los Angeles hotel suite for a chat with TimeOut, Reynolds wants to make one thing absolutely clear:
"There's no human being that's done more of a service to the word motherf***** than Samuel L. Jackson."
Reynolds' proclamation speaks to the wry chemistry between the two A-listers. It more or less carries The Hitman's Bodyguard, and is also highly evident in person.
Reynolds, who plays an elite bodyguard charged with delivering Jackson's elite assassin to an international court date, says the movie wouldn't exist without it.
"I can't speak for him," says Reynolds. "But I wouldn't do this without him. So that was my contingency with the studio - I'll do it if you can get Sam to do it. We met many many years ago at a fundraiser and we did an animated movie together so we did some junkets together. I knew we'd have this kind of chemistry that would work really well for this."
Jackson cites a similar motivation for making the movie, in addition to its attractive selection of international locations.
"I watched enough of Ryan's movies," says Jackson. "Enjoyed 'em, enjoyed what he does so I knew that the dynamic between the two of us would be interesting. And I knew I would have a lot of fun doing it, which is the most important thing for me most times I go to work, making up my mind about what I'm doing: how much fun am I gonna have and where am I gonna do it? And they said Amsterdam, London, Sofia. Sofia? Amsterdam and London sounds great. Didn't know about Bulgaria. But it was actually kinda cool."
If there's anything that shines through in The Hitman's Bodyguard, it's a sense of fun, especially in how it both parodies and embraces classic buddy action comedies of the '80s and 90s.
"Yeah I grew up watching all that. 48 Hours," says Reynolds. "The parody part is important I think because it does poke fun at some of the tropes of buddy action movies, you know? It leans into some of the tropes in a heavy way, and then other times we step away from it and deconstruct it and kind of make fun of it, and then other times it's just a straight-up buddy action comedy."
"We couldn't help it," adds Jackson. "That's all they were throwing at us. I did one. I did a Die Hard movie [1995's Die Hard with a Vengeance] where my job was to be an audience member in a Die Hard movie."
The goofy interplay between the pair in the film suggests a loose shooting atmosphere where improvisation was encouraged.
"There's nothing worse than working with a guy who starts improvising and just makes it all about them," says Reynolds. "[But] this man is the most professional guy you'll ever meet. He and I both I think have a pretty good idea of when to hit the gas and when to pump the brakes a bit, so ..."
"... And there was a great structure there," interrupts Jackson. "The conversations were structured very well. Occasionally we would think of something funnier, or something happened in a moment that made sense for the characters to say."
One of the film's most random moments has Reynolds passionately singing Ace of Base's 1993 chart-topper I Saw the Sign as a response to a blues song from Jackson. Was that an improv?
"The only thing that will actually murder the blues is Ace of Base," says Reynolds. "So I thought, 'Well, I'll just sing Ace of Base. They'll probably never get the rights, so they'll probably just cut it.' Somebody must've paid Ace of Base some money and got the publishing rights."
Despite being two of the biggest movie stars around, Jackson and Reynolds both say they don't have a huge amount of experience with having their own bodyguards.
"I don't have them in my life like some people do," says Jackson."Even when they give me security, I like for the security to be invisible. I don't like people pushing people away."
"I refuse to work with a bodyguard unless he can carry me through a concert in sort of a foetal position," adds Reynolds, coyishly referencing cinema's most famous bodyguard. "You have them for, like, Comic-Con or something. But I wouldn't go to Chipotle with one."
Who: Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson
What: The Hitman's Bodyguard
When: In cinemas next Thursday