Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson are a killer combination in the new action-comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Gill Pringle caught up with the dangerous duo in Los Angeles. 

No actor alive has done more service to the word “motherf–er” than Samuel L. Jackson.

Continuing on his winning streak in The Hitman’s Bodyguard, audiences share in the joke when Ryan Reynolds’ exasperated bodyguard tells Jackson’s hitman that he’s ruined the word.

“My character so hates him but also loves him so much that I think it’s almost a crime of passion, him saying that,” nods Reynolds when STACK meets with the lethal duo in Los Angeles.

If they share a strange bromance on screen, then the actors have become firm friends in real life, this being their first screen pairing.

“It was a mutual admiration society. I always wanted to do something with him,” says Jackson.

When asked what took them so long, Reynolds says, “I’ve wanted to work with him so long; I wouldn’t do this without him. That was my contingency with the studio: I’ll do it if you can get Sam to do it. We met many years ago at a fundraiser and then we did an animated movie together and some junkets together, so I knew we would have the kind of chemistry that would work really well for this.”

Jackson is surprised it took the studios so long to figure out their killer combination. “It just never popped. So even though he’s in the Marvel universe . . .”

“But I’m in the bastard Fox pig-pen. They don’t let us play in the real Marvel world. . .” butts in Reynolds, whose own Deadpool has emerged as the funniest and coolest among all the superheroes and villains.

“That was my contingency with the studio: I’ll do it if you can get Sam to do it.”

Pairing Reynolds with Jackson, you might expect a lot of crazy improv, but Reynolds shakes his head firmly. “There’s nothing worse than working with a guy who starts improvising and makes it all about them, and you lose the whole f–ing plot. But this guy here is the most professional guy you’ll ever work with. He and I both have a good idea of when to hit the gas and when to pump the brakes.”

Jackson agrees: “The conversations on the page were structured very well. Occasionally we would think of something funnier that made sense for the characters – but we didn’t go crazy and off page.”

Possibly the busiest man in Hollywood, featuring in more than 130 films, The Hitman’s Bodyguard presented another appeal for Jackson, namely Salma Hayek.

“Its not like I haven’t been in love with her for ten years before this,” says Jackson, who plays her husband. “So when the script says: Love at first sight – Salma Hayek, the hyper-drive cranks up and you go: ‘Yup! Let’s do it!’ And she’s just such a great person. I’ve known her for a very long time and hung out with her and her husband and its just easy – and then just watching what she does.

“She’s the one that makes our relationship believable,” he continues. “She’s always yelling and screaming at me – but when somebody attacks me or wants to do something bad to me, she defends me like this fierce lioness that she is and cements everything about the relationship.”

Hayek’s Sonia Kincaid has an interesting way of showing her love, and Jackson remains grateful his own marriage isn’t such a battlefield.

“My wife hasn’t cut off half of my ear with a machete and sewn it back on. Yet. But I can relate to that. She’s symbolically done that a few times over 37 years,” he laughs.

Likewise Reynolds doesn’t have any scars. “Sam’s got about 30 years more in his marriage than I do – but all the body parts are still there, that I can see. Love is everything at the end of the day.”

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is in cinemas on August 31.