Samuel L. Jackson, Kangol-topped as always, sauntered into San Diego Comic Con with all the swagger of a man possessing the sizeable stones to star in a movie with a title as unpretentious as Snakes on a Plane.

As has become almost customary, Jackson plays an authority figure who does a significant amount of pointing and shouting. The difference this time is that he’s mostly directing it at reptiles both authentic and digitally fabricated. Even though he probably would’ve rather spent his time at Comic Con on the floor searching for rare comics or Asian films (Jackson remains a dedicated epicurean of geek culture), he sat down and sprayed still more lubricant into his movie’s hype machine.

Q: Can you talk about your relationship to snakes before this film?

Sam: My relationship to snakes? You mean as a kid? I grew up in the country. So if we saw a snake, that snake was pretty much in trouble. Unless it was very fast, we’d catch it and y’know, do things to it. There were certain snakes we knew we weren’t suppose to mess with, and we’d mess with ‘em anyway – there weren’t a lot of rattlesnakes in Georgia, but there were cottonmouths and copperheads and we’d fight ‘em for blackberries and we’d swim in creeks and streams where there were cottonmouths.

Q: When you get a script like this, in this day of CG, were you just assuming they’d just put in digital snakes?

Sam: We talked about it. My agent told ‘em [nebbish voice] “No snakes within 20 feet of Sam.” So consequently there were never any snakes around when we shot, they were always on second unit with the stunt people and when other people were around. Snakes are delicate, and we were falling around and throwing luggage, we didn’t want to hurt ‘em, so it’s best they put them somewhere else. No matter what people say, there’s no such thing as a snake trainer – there’s snake handlers. Snakes can’t be taught to roll over and strike on cue. Mostly they’re kinda lazy and don’t wanna be bothered with people. You put ‘em on a seat, first thing they do is burrow into the cushion.

Q: What was your initial response to the script?

Sam: The honest to God truth is, when people say “Sam Jackson took the job without seeing a script, he only saw the title,” that’s sorta true. I read that Ronny Yu was doing a movie called Snakes on a Plane, and Ronny and I did a film together and we’re friends, so I emailed him and asked him to be in it. He said “Are you serious?” I said if it’s poisonous snakes loose on an airplane, I wanna be in it. And that was it. New Line called my agent, my manager, and they said yeah. And so I was attached. And Ronny went away and David came aboard, and I still hadn’t seen a script but I was still attached.

 Q: Are you surprised by the phenomenon?

Sam: Yeah, totally! I was surprised last year when people had already picked up on the fact they were trying to change the name of the film and they weren’t happy about that. And I don’t blame ‘em, I wasn’t happy every day I went to work and saw the chair that said Pacific Air 121. I said “Gotta put the name back. Remember that movie you made called Freddy vs. Jason? Just tell ‘em what it is, they’ll come.” Or they won’t – you either wanna see it or you don’t. Everybody thought the buzz would peter out, but you go online now and people are still making videos and posters and blogs and having fun with it.

Q: Could this be the start of a franchise?

Sam: What would that be? This is so unique, because you can’t get off and there’s no place to go from these very dangerous snakes. We were talking last night trying to figure out what the next thing would be, and I guess because they found all those mice that were eating the wires on that plane, I guess we could do Rats on a Plane. And the tagline for that would be “Where the fuck’s a snake when you need one?”

Q: What makes you choose this kind of material?

Sam: ‘Cuz it’s the kind of movie I would’ve gone to as a kid. My friends and I would’ve been at the movies first thing that morning and stayed all day long and watched it three times. There are a lot of things I read that are just duplicates of things I watched as a kid, and now that I have the ability to be in ‘em, I’ll take that chance. Deep Blue Sea! Popcorn movie. I get killed by a shark? Hell yeah! I’ve been waiting to do that. It’s just stuff that I enjoyed, and I want to do it. It’s not a great story or character, it’s just the fact that I want people to go to the movies on Saturday and have as much fun as I did as a kid. There’s nothing wrong with doing that. Even though a lot of people might think so.

Q: How does it feel to have fans demand you say “motherfucker” in the film?

Sam: Fine. Most people I meet demand I say it too! That’s cool. I expected me to say it too – it’s that kinda movie, you’re on a plane full of snakes. Thank goodness the cry went out and somebody heard it and understood it and let us put it in the movie.

Q: Are there any animals you have an aversion to?

Sam: Yeah, snails. I don’t know how people eat escargot. I see ‘em in my yard, I’ll grab ‘em and throw ‘em. But I don’t mind snakes.

 Q: How’d you get involved with [Spike TV’s upcoming animated series] Afro Samurai?

Sam: I’m actually voicing a couple of characters in that. Bob Okazaki, the kid who created it, somehow got a DVD to me, he knows I have a great love for Asian cinema and that I read comic books. And I liked it a lot, and we started emailing each other and I got involved in the project. I went over to Japan and met with all the people that were doing it, they were extremely surprised I knew so much about the genre, samurai films and sword fighting. It’s a great project that combines traditional sword fighting with a very unconventional postapocalyptic world with hip-hop music, we have the RZA doing the music. Two episodes are done. The live action script, they got a first draft and I met a kid last night I actually like a lot, he directed a Japanese film called Azumi, and hopefully we can talk him into doing the live-action version of the movie.

Q: What’s up next for you?

Sam: Heading to London to start 1408, the Stephen King short story horror film. I’ll be done with that in a couple of weeks and then I go to Jumper, the sci-fi movie with Doug Liman.

Q: Does anything cross your mind now when you get on a plane?

Sam: Yeah, I hope the seat goes all the way down so I can get some sleep. I don’t have things about flying. I put my iPod on and go to sleep. I don’t wanna experience the flight. I tell my wife not to wake me up unless we crash.