Samuel Leroy Jackson (born December 21, 1948) is an American film and television actor and film producer. After becoming involved with the Civil Rights Movement, he moved on to acting in theater at Morehouse College, and then films. He had several small roles such as in the film Goodfellas before meeting his mentor, Morgan Freeman, and the director Spike Lee. After gaining critical acclaim for his role in Jungle Fever in 1991, he appeared in films such as Patriot Games, Amos & Andrew, True Romance and Jurassic Park. In 1994, he was cast as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, and his performance received several award nominations and critical acclaim.
Jackson has since appeared in over 100 films, including Die Hard with a Vengeance, The 51st State, Jackie Brown, Unbreakable, The Incredibles, Black Snake Moan, Shaft, Snakes on a Plane, Django Unchained, as well as the Star Wars prequel trilogy and small roles in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Inglourious Basterds.
He played Nick Fury in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Marvel's The Avengers, the first five of a nine-film commitment as the character for the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. Jackson is set to reprise his role as Fury in the 2014 film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the 2015 film, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Jackson's many roles have made him one of the highest-grossing actors at the box office. Jackson has won multiple awards throughout his career and has been portrayed in various forms of media, including films, television series, and songs. In 1980, Jackson married LaTanya Richardson, with whom he has a daughter, Zoe.
In October 2011, Jackson surpassed Frank Welker as the actor with the highest grossing film total of all time.
Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up as an only child in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His father lived away from the family, in Kansas City, Missouri, and later died from alcoholism. Jackson had only met his father twice during his life. Jackson was raised by his mother, Elizabeth Jackson (née Montgomery), who was a factory worker and later a supplies buyer for a mental institution, and by his maternal grandparents and extended family. According to DNA tests, Jackson partially descends from the Benga people of Gabon.
Jackson attended several segregated schools and graduated from Riverside High School in Chattanooga. Between the third and twelfth grades, he played the French horn and trumpet in the school orchestra. During childhood, he had a stuttering problem, which he conquered by developing an affinity for the use of the curse word, motherfucker, in his vocabulary.
Initially intent on pursuing a degree in marine biology, he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. After joining a local acting group to earn extra points in a class, Jackson found an interest in acting and switched his major. Before graduating in 1972, he co-founded the "Just Us Theatre".
Civil Rights Movement involvement:
"I would like to think because of the things I did, my daughter can do the things that she does. She barely has a recognition that she's black"
--Jackson reflecting on his actions during the Civil Rights Movement.
After the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackson attended the funeral in Atlanta as one of the ushers. Jackson then flew to Memphis to join an equal rights protest march. In a Parade interview Jackson revealed: "I was angry about the assassination, but I wasn't shocked by it. I knew that change was going to take something different - not sit-ins, not peaceful coexistence." In 1969, Jackson and several other students held members of the Morehouse College board of trustees (including a nearby Martin Luther King, Sr.) hostage on the campus, demanding reform in the school's curriculum and governance. The college eventually agreed to change its policy, but Jackson was charged with and eventually convicted of unlawful confinement, a second-degree felony. Jackson was then suspended for two years for his criminal record and his actions (although he would later return to the college to earn his Bachelor of Arts in Drama in 1972).
While he was suspended, Jackson was employed as a social worker in Los Angeles. Jackson decided to return to Atlanta, where he met with Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and others active in the Black Power movement. Jackson revealed in the same Parade interview that he began to feel empowered with his involvement in the movement, especially when the group began buying guns. However, before Jackson could become involved with any significant armed confrontation, his mother sent him to Los Angeles after the FBI told her that he would die within a year if he remained with the Black Power movement.
"Casting black actors is still strange for Hollywood. Denzel gets the offer first. Then it's Danny Glover, Forest Whitaker and Wesley Snipes. Right now, I'm the next one on the list."
--Jackson reacting to his new fame in 1993.
Jackson initially majored in marine biology at Morehouse College before switching to architecture. He later settled on drama after taking a public speaking class and appearing in a version of The Threepenny Opera. Jackson began acting in multiple plays, including Home and A Soldier's Play. He appeared in several television films, and made his feature film debut in the blaxploitation independent film Together for Days (1972). After these initial roles, Jackson proceeded to move from Atlanta to New York City in 1976 and spent the next decade appearing in stage plays such as The Piano Lesson and Two Trains Running, which both premiered at the Yale Repertory Theater. At this point in his early career, Jackson developed alcoholism and cocaine addictions, resulting in him being unable to proceed with the two plays as they continued to Broadway (actors Charles S. Dutton and Anthony Chisholm took his place). Throughout his early film career, mainly in minimal roles in films such as Coming to America and various television films, Jackson was mentored by Morgan Freeman. After a 1981 performance in the play A Soldier's Play, Jackson was introduced to director Spike Lee who would later include him in small roles for the films School Daze (1988) and Do the Right Thing (1989). He also played a minor role in the 1990 Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas as real-life Mafia associate Stacks Edwards and also worked as a stand-in on The Cosby Show for Bill Cosby for three years.
While completing these films, Jackson's drug addiction had worsened. After previously overdosing on heroin several times, Jackson gave up the drug in favor of cocaine. After seeing the effects of his addiction, his family entered him into a New York rehab clinic. When he successfully completed rehab, Jackson appeared in Jungle Fever, as a crack cocaine addict, a role which Jackson called cathartic as he was recovering from his addiction. Jackson commented on the transition, "It was a funny kind of thing. By the time I was out of rehab, about a week or so later I was on set and we were ready to start shooting." The film was so acclaimed that the 1991 Cannes Film Festival created a special "Supporting Actor" award just for him. After this role, Jackson became involved with multiple films, including the comedy Strictly Business and dramas Juice and Patriot Games. He then moved on to two other comedies: National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (his first starring role) and Amos & Andrew. Jackson then worked with director Steven Spielberg, appearing in Jurassic Park.
After a turn as the criminal Big Don in the 1993 Quentin Tarantino-penned True Romance directed by Tony Scott, Tarantino contacted Jackson for the role of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction. Jackson was surprised to learn that the part had been specifically written for him: "To know that somebody had written something like Jules for me. I was overwhelmed, thankful, arrogant - this whole combination of things that you could be, knowing that somebody's going to give you an opportunity like that." Although Pulp Fiction was Jackson's thirtieth film, the role made him internationally recognized and he received praise from critics. In a review by Entertainment Weekly, his role was commended: "As superb as Travolta, Willis, and Keitel are, the actor who reigns over Pulp Fiction is Samuel L. Jackson. He just about lights fires with his gremlin eyes and he transforms his speeches into hypnotic bebop soliloquies." For the Academy Awards, Miramax Films pushed for the Best Supporting Actor nomination for Jackson (although he had about the same screen time as Travolta, who was nominated for Best Actor). For his performance, Jackson received a Best Supporting Actor nomination. In addition, Jackson won a Golden Globe nomination and a BAFTA Best Supporting Actor award.
After Pulp Fiction, Jackson received multiple scripts to play his next role: "I could easily have made a career out of playing Jules over the years. Everybody's always sending me the script they think is the new Pulp Fiction." With a succession of poor-performing films such as Kiss of Death, The Great White Hype, and Losing Isaiah, Jackson began to receive poor reviews from critics who had praised his performance in Pulp Fiction. This ended with his involvement in the two successful box office films A Time To Kill, where he depicted a father who is put on trial for killing two men who raped his daughter, and Die Hard with a Vengeance, starring alongside Bruce Willis in the third installment of the Die Hard series. For A Time to Kill, Jackson earned an NAACP Image for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture and a Golden Globe nomination for a Best Supporting Actor.
Quickly becoming a box office star, Jackson continued with three starring roles in 1997. In 187 he played a dedicated teacher striving to leave an impact on his students. He received an Independent Spirit award for Best First Feature alongside first-time writer/director Kasi Lemmons in the drama Eve's Bayou, for which he also served as executive producer. He joined up again with Tarantino and received the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlin Film Festival and a fourth Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of arms merchant Ordell Robbie in Jackie Brown. In 1998, he worked with other established actors such as Sharon Stone and Dustin Hoffman in Sphere and Kevin Spacey in The Negotiator, playing a hostage negotiator who resorts to taking hostages himself when he is falsely accused of murder and embezzlement. In 1999, Jackson starred in the horror film Deep Blue Sea, and as Jedi Master Mace Windu in George Lucas' Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. In an interview, Jackson claimed that he did not have a chance to read the script for the film and did not learn he was playing the character Mace Windu until he was fitted for his costume (he later said that he was eager to accept any role, just for the chance to be a part of the Star Wars saga).
On June 13, 2000, Jackson was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7018 Hollywood Blvd. He began the next decade in his film career as a Marine colonel put on trial in Rules of Engagement, co-starred with Bruce Willis for a third time in the supernatural thriller Unbreakable, and starred in the 2000 remake of the 1971 film Shaft. Jackson's sole film in 2001 was The Caveman's Valentine, a murder thriller in which he played a homeless musician. The film was directed by Kasi Lemmons, who previously worked with Jackson in Eve's Bayou. In 2002, he played a recovering alcoholic attempting to keep custody of his kids while fighting a battle of wits with Ben Affleck's character in Changing Lanes. He returned for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, seeing his minor supporting role develop into a major character. Mace Windu's purple lightsaber in the film was the result of Jackson's suggestion; he wanted to be sure that his character would stand out in a crowded battle scene. Jackson then acted as an NSA agent alongside Vin Diesel in xXx and a kilt-wearing drug dealer in The 51st State. In 2003, Jackson again worked with John Travolta in Basic and then as a police sergeant alongside Colin Farrell in the television show remake S.W.A.T. A song within the soundtrack was named after him, entitled Sammy L. Jackson by Hot Action Cop. Jackson also appeared in HBO's documentary Unchained Memories, as a narrator along many other stars like Angela Bassett and Whoopi Goldberg. He uses terminology such as paddy rollers (which can be seen on the slave patrol page) when reading his narration.
According to reviews gathered by Rotten Tomatoes, in 2004 Jackson starred in both his lowest and highest ranked films in his career. In the thriller Twisted, Jackson played a mentor to Ashley Judd. The film garnered a 2% approval rating on the website, with reviewers calling his performance "lackluster" and "wasted". He then lent his voice to the computer-animated film The Incredibles as the superhero Frozone. The film received a 97% approval rating, and Jackson's performance earned him an Annie Award nomination for Best Voice Acting. He then went on to do a cameo in another Quentin Tarantino film, Kill Bill, Vol. 2.
In 2005, he starred in the sports drama, Coach Carter, where he played a coach (based on the actual coach Ken Carter) dedicated to teaching his players that education is more important than basketball. Although the film received mixed reviews, Jackson's performance was praised despite the film's storyline. Bob Townsend of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution commended Jackson's performance, "He takes what could have been a cardboard cliche role and puts flesh on it with his flamboyant intelligence." Jackson also returned for two sequels: XXX: State of the Union, this time commanding Ice Cube, and the final Star Wars prequel film, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. His last film for 2005 was The Man alongside comedian Eugene Levy. On November 4, 2005, he was presented with the Hawaii International Film Festival Achievement in Acting Award.
On January 30, 2006, Jackson was honored with a hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theater; he is the seventh African American and 191st actor to be recognized in this manner. He next starred opposite actress Julianne Moore in the box office bomb Freedomland, where he depicted a police detective attempting to help a mother find her abducted child while quelling a citywide race riot. Jackson's second film of the year, Snakes on a Plane, gained cult film status months before it was released based on its title and cast. Jackson's decision to star in the film was solely based on the title. To build anticipation for the film, he also cameoed in the 2006 music video "Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)" by Cobra Starship. On December 2, 2006, Jackson won the German Bambi Award for International Film, based on his many film contributions. In December 2006, Jackson starred in Home of the Brave, as a doctor returning home from the Iraq War.
On January 30, 2007, Jackson was featured as narrator in Bob Saget's direct-to-DVD Farce of the Penguins. The film was a spoof of the box office success March of the Penguins (which was narrated by Morgan Freeman). Also in 2007, he portrayed a blues player who imprisons a young woman (Christina Ricci) addicted to sex in Black Snake Moan, and the horror film 1408, an adaptation of the Stephen King short story. Later the same year, Jackson portrayed an athlete who impersonates former boxing heavyweight Bob Satterfield in director Rod Lurie's drama, Resurrecting the Champ. In 2008, Jackson reprised his role of Mace Windu in the CGI film, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, followed by Lakeview Terrace where he played a racist cop who terrorizes an interracial couple. In November of the same year, he starred along with Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes (who both died before the film's release) in Soul Men. In 2008, he portrayed the villain in The Spirit, which was poorly received by critics and the box office. In 2009, he again worked with Quentin Tarantino when he narrated several scenes in the World War II film, Inglourious Basterds. In 2010, he starred in the drama Mother and Child and portrayed an interrogator who attempts to locate several nuclear weapons in the direct-to-video film Unthinkable. Alongside Dwayne Johnson, Jackson again portrayed a police officer in the opening scenes of the comedy The Other Guys. He also co-starred with Tommy Lee Jones for a film adaptation of The Sunset Limited.
Throughout Jackson's career, he has appeared in many films alongside mainstream rappers. These include Tupac Shakur (Juice), Queen Latifah (Juice/Sphere), Method Man (One Eight Seven), LL Cool J (Deep Blue Sea/S.W.A.T.), Busta Rhymes (Shaft), Eve (xXx), Ice Cube (xXx: State of the Union), Xzibit (xXx: State of the Union), David Banner (Black Snake Moan), and 50 Cent (Home of the Brave). Additionally, Jackson has appeared in four films with actor Bruce Willis (National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1, Pulp Fiction, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Unbreakable) and the actors were slated to work together in Black Water Transit before both dropped out.
Jackson appeared in Quentin Tarantino's film, Django Unchained, which was released December 25, 2012.
Jackson gave his approval for Marvel to use his likeness for the Ultimate Nick Fury. Since 2008, he has portrayed the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In 2001, Jackson gave his consent for Marvel Comics to design their "Ultimate" version of the character Nick Fury after his likeness. In the 2008 film Iron Man, he made a cameo as the character in a post-credit scene. In February 2009, Jackson signed on to a nine-picture deal with Marvel which would see him appear as the character in Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers as well as any other sequels they would produce. He is currently set to reprise the role for the fifth time in the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Jackson is set to produce a live-action movie of Afro Samurai, and is assuming the role of Sho'nuff in a remake of The Last Dragon.
Television and other roles:
In addition to films, Jackson also appeared in several television shows, a video game, music videos, as well as audiobooks. Jackson had a small part in the Public Enemy music video for "911 Is a Joke". Jackson voiced several television show characters, including the lead role in the anime series, Afro Samurai, in addition to a recurring part as the voice of Gin Rummy in several episodes of the animated series The Boondocks. He guest-starred as himself in an episode of the BBC/HBO sitcom Extras. He voiced the main antagonist, Officer Frank Tenpenny, in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Jackson also hosted a variety of awards shows. Thus far, he has hosted the MTV Movie Awards (1998), the ESPYs (1999, 2001, 2002, and 2009), and the Spike TV Video Game Awards (2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012). In November 2006, he provided the voice of God for The Bible Experience, the New Testament audiobook version of the Bible. He was given the lead role because producers believed his deep, authoritative voice would best fit the role. He further expanded his audio book legacy by then reading the Audible.com production of the number one Amazon.com best seller Go the Fuck to Sleep. For the Atlanta Falcons 2010 season, Samuel L. Jackson portrayed Rev. Sultan in the Falcons "Rise Up" commercial. He reprised his role as Nick Fury in a cameo appearance on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2013, and appeared in Capital One cash-back credit card commercials.
Box office performance:
Jackson has said that he chooses roles that are "exciting to watch" and have an "interesting character inside of a story", and that in his roles he wanted to "do things he hasn't done, things he saw as a kid and wanted to do and now has an opportunity to do". Throughout the 1990s, A.C. Neilson E.C.I., a box office tracking company, determined that Jackson appeared in more films than any other actor that grossed $1.7 billion domestically. For all the films in his career, where he is featured as a leading actor or supporting co-star, his films have grossed a total of $2.81 to $4.91 billion at the North American box office, placing him as the seventh (as strictly lead) or the second highest-grossing movie star (counting supporting roles) of all time; behind only that of voice actor Frank Welker. The 2009 edition of The Guinness World Records, which uses a different calculation to determine film grosses, stated that Jackson is the world's highest grossing actor, having earned $7.42 billion in 68 films.
In 1980, Jackson married actress and sports channel producer LaTanya Richardson, whom he met while attending Morehouse College. The couple have a daughter, Zoe, born in 1982. In 2009, they started their own charitable organization to help support education. Jackson and Richardson live in Los Angeles, California.
Jackson has revealed in an interview that he sees every one of his movies in theaters with paying customers claiming that "Even during my theater years, I wished I could watch the plays I was in - while I was in them! I dig watching myself work." He also enjoys collecting the action figures of the characters he portrays in his films, including Jules Winnfield, Shaft, Mace Windu, and Frozone. He is a comic book and anime fan. His favorite anime series include Ninja Scroll and Black Lagoon.
Jackson is bald, but enjoys wearing unusual wigs in his films. Jackson has reflected on his decision to go bald: "I keep ending up on those bald is beautiful lists. It's cool. You know, when I started losing my hair it was during the era when everybody had lots of hair. ... All of a sudden I felt this big hole in the middle of my afro, I couldn't face having a comb over so I had to quickly figure what the haircut for me was." His first bald role was in The Great White Hype. Jackson usually gets to pick his own hairstyles for each character he portrays. Although he did poke fun at his baldness the first time he appeared bald on The Tonight Show, explaining that he had to shave his head for one role, but then he kept receiving more and more roles afterward, and had to keep shaving his head so wigs could be made for him. Laughingly, he ended the tale by lamenting to Jay Leno, "The only way I'm gonna have time to grow my hair back, is if I'm not workin'!".
Jackson enjoys playing golf, a game he has been reported to have become very proficient at. Jackson has a clause in his film contracts that allows him to play golf during production. He has played in the Gary Player Invitational charity golf tournament to assist Gary Player raise funds for needy children in South Africa. He stated that the golf course is the only place where he "can go dressed as a pimp and fit in perfectly". Jackson is also a keen basketball fan, and especially favors the Toronto Raptors and the Harlem Globetrotters. Jackson, a known lover of Ireland, also supports a Dublin based soccer team Bohemian F.C.. In 2001, Jackson filmed 51st State in Liverpool, England. After a visit to Anfield, Liverpool FC's ground, he became a fan of the club, regularly tweeting about matches.
Jackson campaigned during the 2008 Democratic Primary for then Illinois Senator Barack Obama in Texarkana, Texas. He said "Barack Obama represents everything I was told I could be growing up. I am a child of segregation. When I grew up and people told me I could be president, I knew it was a lie. But now we have a representative... the American Dream is a reality. Anyone can grow up to be a president." Jackson also said, "I voted for Barack because he was black. 'Cuz that's why other folks vote for other people - because they look like them".
Jackson compared Django Unchained character, Stephen, the villainous house slave played by Jackson, to black conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, saying, "I have the same moral compass as Clarence Thomas does."
In June 2013, Jackson, along with a charity called Prizeo, launched a joint campaign in an effort to raise money to fight Alzheimer's disease. As part of that campaign, Jackson recited various fan written monologues, as well as a scene from Breaking Bad.