FILM Say the name “Pam Grier” and certain things come to mind: the iconic poster for her 1973 breakout, Coffy, about a nurse turned vigilante (“the baddest one-chick hit squad that ever hit town!”); or her cool-as-ice, career-reviving turn in 1997’s Jackie Brown.
What you don’t think of, probably, is blaxploitation’s most gorgeous badass puttering around on a Colorado farm. Make no mistake, Grier is a badass (onscreen and off), but this was the first thing she said, over the phone, after a breathless greeting: “I was just stacking some hay!” With that image lodged in my brain, I chatted with Grier about her upcoming event in San Francisco with Peaches Christ.
SFBG The Castro is screening films that span your career: Coffy and Jackie Brown. Did you realize, at the time, that Coffy would have such an impact?
Pam Grier I knew that Coffy was representing the women’s liberation movement. But it was also representing my mother — as we were all trying to survive the Jim Crow era, she was the nurse in our community — and my grandfather, who was the first feminist in my life. He required the girls to learn as much as the boys, and to be self-sufficient. He said, “Men will respect you when you can do something.” And I brought that to film. It was about literally giving women across the world a voice. I didn’t invent it — I just happened to be the one who could show it onscreen. I think women [realized] “Yes! We’ve always had that freedom. Why haven’t we utilized it?” It was a real revolutionary movement.
SFBG What was it like working with director Jack Hill?
PG He was great. He and Roger [Corman] were very much into authenticity, and they wanted their actors to be as raw as possible. It was great that they didn’t want to overly polish me and cover me in blue eyeshadow.
SFBG You first encountered Jackie Brown director Quentin Tarantino when he was casting 1994’s Pulp Fiction. What was that initial meeting like?
PG I walked into his office and all of my posters were on his wall. Very impressive. I said, “Did you put them up because I was coming?” He said, “No, I was gonna take them down, so I didn’t seem like a stalker!” He is so enamored with film — how could you not respect someone with such a great appreciation of cinema and art?
I remember I was watching Reservoir Dogs in New York City, and the characters talked about “Pam Grier, that badass chick.” My friends around me started screaming and pointing at me! I said, “He gave me an homage! Amazing!” You never know when you’ll impress other people by just being yourself.
SFBG Aside from being a film star — with roles in multiple upcoming films, including the RZA’s directorial debut, The Man With the Iron Fists — you are also a huge film fan as well.
PG I love the cinema, and I have respect for all films whether I like them or not. I love good storytelling. [My career is] always an adventure. It’s always interesting. I’m never bored! *
“PAM GRIER IS LIVE AND IN-PERSON!”
Sat/17, 8 p.m., $10-$55
429 Castro, SF