Jump Back: Samuel L. Jackson Leads The Paladins
Central to the complex history and mythology of the Jumpers in our midst are their sworn enemies: the Paladins, a secret organization whose members have, century after century, waged a relentless war against Jumpers in the hopes of stopping any nefarious Jumper from destroying the earth.
For the filmmakers, the imperative was to keep the Paladins just as fascinating as the Jumpers. They might be dangerous adversaries of the Jumpers, but they're not exactly black-and-white villains.
"In JUMPER, we wanted to create a bad guy world that felt as fresh, textured and real as the Jumpers themselves," explains Simon Kinberg. "We spent a lot of time building up the mythology of the Paladins, their philosophy, their powers and their weaponry. It was really important to Doug -- to all of us -- that the Paladins become multi-dimensional characters who are not just out to kill our heroes but actually have a very valid and moral ethic of their own."
Adds Lucas Foster, "The Paladins believe that the Jumpers are ultimately a disaster for humanity and that they must be stopped. They're not doing it for money; they're not doing it for medals. They lead anonymous lives and they are anonymous heroes in their own world."
To play the role of the head Paladin -- the savvy, unflinching Roland -- the filmmakers always had in mind one actor: Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson, the rare performer who seems to bring believability and authority to every role he plays, no matter how diverse. "Sam brings a very thoughtful approach to his craft and the different characters he plays. The character of Roland is absolutely vital to this story and Sam really helped him to evolve, to give him validity," says Liman.
Jackson has played a lot of tough, larger-than-life characters -- from assassins to Jedi Masters -- in his career, but notes that Roland is unique even among that unconventional roster. "He's an iconic character who has a dynamic impact on the story that I think will be memorable," says Jackson. "Roland is a mysterious guy, because you're never quite sure who he works for. What you do know is that his main raison d'être is to kill Jumpers, no matter what age they are, no matter who they are, no matter where they are. And that he does it with a specific zeal."
For Jackson, part of the Paladin mystique is how highly trained they are in their one singular mission to keep Jumpers from impacting human history. "Paladins are ancient warriors, soldiers who have honed skills over the centuries most people don't have," Jackson explains. "You might think the Jumpers have the advantage because they can teleport, but they're not warriors like the Paladins."
Jackson especially welcomed the opportunity to share the screen with his former Star Wars co-star Hayden Christensen again. "It's been fantastic watching Hayden grow since the years we spent together on the Star Wars films. He has an interesting sort of James Dean quality, brooding and intense, with something under the surface that feels like it might be unleashed at any point."
Playing against such a formidable foe also was a physical challenge for Jackson. "There was a lot of fighting, swinging and jumping off of high places, and I have old knees, " laughs Jackson, "but it was also very cool to get to fight two people with the abilities of David Rice and Griffin."
Most of all, Jackson was thrilled to work for the first time with Doug Liman, whose style seemed so perfectly suited to this tale. "Doug is a unique individual who was able to see this story from many different angles in one instant. It's almost like he's a Jumper in his mind," remarks Jackson. "He jumps from here to there and back into space which always leads you into interesting territory."
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