Samuel Leroy Jackson has appeared in over a hundred films in his brilliant career. Although he didn’t gain international recognition until his early forties, Jackson has been acting for well over four decades. Having been a part of several major blockbuster franchises (Star Wars, Die Hard, Jurassic Park, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe), his films combined have earned more than any other actor in history, averaging nearly $70 million dollars per film.
Here are a few facts you might not know about one of the coolest actors on the planet.
Samuel L. Jackson Facts
48. Wigging out
When Jackson started losing his hair, he decided to simply go bald because he likes “ending up on those bald is beautiful lists. It’s cool.” No Sam, you’re cool.
47. The Sea Was Angry That Day
Jackson attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia where his intent was to become a marine biologist which, obviously, he didn’t do. It’s just as well, because if the film Deep Blue Sea was any indication, he would likely have been eaten by a shark.
46. Art Vandelay
Actually, after quitting his pursuit of marine biology, he decided to try his hand at architecture instead. Samuel L. Jackson almost became all the professions that George Costanza pretended to be.
45. How Does That Make You Feel?
In the 1970s, Jackson was employed as a social worker in Los Angeles.
44. Jungle Fever
Jackson’s feature film debut was in the 1972 blaxploitation indie Together for Days, a film about the effect that an interracial relationship had on friends and family. It was then re-released sometime later under the name Black Cream, which made it sound much more lurid than it was.
43. God Smiled On Him
Early on his career, when he was still doing only small film roles, Jackson was mentored by Morgan Freeman.
42. Good Standing?
For three years, Jackson worked as a stand-in for Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show. We’d do a Cosby joke, but the world really doesn’t need another Cosby joke.
41. It’s a Made-Up Award
Jackson’s performance in the film Jungle Fever was so acclaimed that the 1991 Cannes Film Festival created a special “Supporting Actor” award just for him—they do not usually give out such a prize, but Jackson was just that good.
40. Royale with Cheese
The role of Jules Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction was written specifically for Jackson, and although by that time he’d already acted in now fewer than 30 films, this was the one that shot him to international fame.
39. The Path of the Righteous Man
Jackson earned an NAACP Image award and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in A Time to Kill when he played a father on trial for murdering the men who raped his daughter.
38. Turning a Curse into a Blessing
Jackson had a stuttering problem during childhood, which he overcome by using the curse word “mother******.” He’s been saying it his whole life, which explains why he’s so gosh darn good at it.
Despite being bald, Jackson is the voice of Afro Samurai, a laconic, sword-wielding warrior with a massive head of hair from the anime of the same name. He also voiced Afro’s annoying occasional companion Ninja Ninja.
36. The Force is With Him
Jackson didn’t find out he was playing Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace until he was being fitted for the role. He just wanted to be a part of the franchise and didn’t care what part he played. Samuel L. Jackson is basically the most successful Star Wars fanboy ever.
35. It’s Not Grape, You Racist
Mace Windu’s purple lightsaber in Attack of the Clones was Jackson’s idea. He wanted to stand out in a crowded battle scene because the only other black actor that received top twenty billing in the film played Jar Jar Binks. When George Lucas pointed out that lightsabers were traditionally red or green, Jackson responded with “Yeah, but I want a purple one.” Jackson got his purple lightsaber and the Internet immediately exploded.
When Samuel L. Jackson was cast as Nick Fury, it ignited a backlash by fans who screamed that Fury was white and not black and accused Hollywood of “racelifting,” whereby characters written as one ethnicity are played by an actor of another. Of course, it’s unlikely those same fans were as incensed by Jake Gyllenhaal playing the Prince of Persia or Gerard Butler playing a God of Egypt.
33. Yeah, Nobody Remembers
Before Samuel L. Jackson took the role of Nick Fury and made it indelibly his, David Hasselhoff played Fury in the 1998 Fox television movie Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
32. Fair Enough
The funniest part about the fans complaining about Jackson being cast as Nick Fury is that the character in the comics was actually based on him! When it came time to create a Fury for the newly established Marvel Ultimate universe, artist Mark Millar specifically based the character’s look on Jackson. Jackson, being an avid comic book reader, was perfectly aware of what Marvel had done. When Millar apologized for “completely exploiting” Jackson’s image and likeness for the character and asked if he was annoyed, Jackson responded, “No, man! Thanks for the nine-picture deal!”
In 2004, Jackson starred in both his lowest and highest rated films of his career. He played a mentor to Ashley Judd in Twisted, a film which garnered a 2% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But he also lent his voice to Frozone in The Incredibles, which scored a 97% approval rating.
30. Who Can Blame Him?
Jackson’s decision to star in Snakes on a Plane was based solely on the title. To be fair, everyone who saw the movie did so for the same reason.
29. Green Screen
Jackson has demanded a clause in all his film contracts that allows him to play golf during film shoots. Jackson explained the details: “Generally, they either move me onto a golf course so I can play or join a club so I can play, and they have to let me play at least twice a week.” He apparently has a handicap of 6.9.
28. Playing With Himself
Jackson likes collecting the action figures of the characters he’s portrayed in his films. This includes Jules Winnfield, Shaft, Mace Windu, and Frozone. Yes, that’s right. Samuel L. Jackson likes to play with dolls.
27. Uncle Sam Wants You
In 2008, Jackson campaigned for Barack Obama saying, “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.”
26. Han Shot First
Having taken part in some of the biggest blockbuster films in cinematic history, Samuel L. Jackson is number one on the all-time box office list. Harrison Ford topped the list for many years, but the unstoppable dominance of the MCU has finally put Jackson on top. Combined, Jackson’s films have made more than $5.7 billion—and this is even before Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame have been released!
25. The Acting Bug
Though he dabbled in marine biology and architecture, once Jackson joined a local acting group to pick up a little bit of extra credit for one of his classes, he never looked back. He switched his major to theater, and even co-founded the “Just Us Theatre” before he graduated university.
24. Sixth on the List
Hollywood still has a long way to go when it comes to diversity, and it was even worse earlier in Jackson’s career. As his career started to take off in 1993, he had this to say: “Casting black actors is still strange for Hollywood. Denzel [Washington] gets the offer first. Then it’s Danny Glover, Forest Whitaker and Wesley Snipes. Right now, I’m the next one on the list.”
23. You Shouldn’t Have
Around the time Pulp Fiction was getting made, Jackson was an experienced actor, but he wasn’t exactly a household name. So he was all the more shocked when he heard that the role of Jules Winnfield had been written specifically 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.”
Pulp Fiction was a career changer for Jackson, but it came with the danger of being typecast: “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.”
21. College Sweethearts
Jackson met his wife, LaTanya Richardson, in 1974 while they were at school (Jackson attended the all-male Morehouse, while Richardson was at the nearby Spelman College, one of America’s oldest historically black female colleges). They were married in 1980, and have remained together ever since.
20. That’s Me Up There!
Many actors say that they can’t stand to watch themselves on screen. Jackson is not one of them. He frequently attends his films in the theater—he just wishes there was a way to see himself act in plays: “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.”
19. It’s Just the Roles, I Swear!
Jackson may have made the decision to go bald, but at least he has a sense of humor about it. Soon after chopping off his locks, he appeared on The Tonight Show, claiming that he shaved his head for a role, but then kept on getting cast in other roles that required him to be bald, so he never got the chance to grow his hair back!
18. Helping DiCaprio Out
While filming Tarantino’s Django Unchained with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jackson noticed that DiCaprio was having trouble with the role. DiCaprio explained how he felt about his own character, “I mean, there was absolutely nothing about this man I could identify with. I hated him and it was one of the most narcissistic, racist characters I’ve ever read in my entire life.”
DiCaprio especially had trouble using so many racial slurs in his dialogue, so Samuel L. Jackson actually pulled him aside and said, “Hey mother—-, this is another Tuesday for us, let’s go!”
17. Drugs Are Bad
He spent ten years in New York City acting in plays such as The Piano Lesson and Two Trains Running. These two plays eventually made the jump to Broadway, but unfortunately, Jackson didn’t make the trip with them. While performing in the plays’ early runs, he developed an addiction to drugs and alcohol which got him recast when Broadway came calling.
16. They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab…
His addictions got worse in subsequent years and he overdosed several times. Fearing for his life, his family entered him into rehab.
15. Methadone Actor
A week and a half after he got out of rehab, Jackson played an addict in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. He did so against the advice of the rehabilitation center, who were concerned that being around so much drug paraphernalia, even if they were just props, would cause him to relapse. In the end, he told them, “I will not pick up again for no other reason than I do not ever want to see you in my life again.”
14. A Real Pro
Despite his crippling addictions, Jackson was fairly well regarded in the New York theater scene—something he attributes to his professionalism. “I had a very good theater reputation. Granted, I was a… drug addict and I was out of my mind a lot of the time, but I had a good reputation. Showed up on time, knew my lines, hit my marks.”
13. Something in the Way
While Jackson was getting steady work in New York, none of it was particularly well paid. He may have been a fairly well-respected actor, but something was keeping him from truly reaching the next level: “I was doing things the right way, it was just that one thing that was in the way—my addiction. And once that was out of the way, it was—boom! The door blew wide open.”
Jackson’s wife was always his toughest critic, but he was never able to truly understand her advice until he stopped using drugs. She would tell him he was talented, but his work had “no blood in it.” He disregarded her note for years, but he finally understood what she meant after he got sober, and he became a better actor because of it.
11. Parental Leave
Born in Washington, Jackson was abandoned by his father and subsequently raised by his grandparents in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His mother stayed in Washington until he was nine and only visited him at Christmas and during the summer holidays.
10. Ghost Dad
In his entire life, Jackson only ever met his father twice.
9. Runs in the Family
Jackson’s father was never a big part of his life—but he also wasn’t around for very long either. He eventually died from alcoholism—something that would plague his son later in life as well.
8. Sad History
Though he seems to be ageless, Jackson has been around for a long time—long enough, in fact, that he attended segregated schools while he was growing up, which no doubt contributed to his disillusionment with American society.
7. We Shall Overcome
Jackson attended the 1968 funeral of Martin Luther King—in fact, he actually worked as one of the ushers on that sad day. Then, soon after the funeral ended, he flew to Memphis to join an equal rights protest march. “I was angry about the assassination,” he said, “but I wasn’t shocked by it.”
6. The Negotiator
Jackson was a serious student activist in his early days. In 1969, he and several other students held members of the Morehouse College board of trustees hostage on campus, demanding reform to the school’s curriculum (for one, the school didn’t have a black studies course) and governance. Although the college agreed to change its policy, Jackson was charged and convicted of unlawful confinement, a second-degree felony, and he was suspended for two years.
5. Now this is a Story All About how…
During his suspension, Jackson became heavily involved in the Black Power movement, and although they weren’t militant yet, the group had begun to buy guns. However, after the FBI told his mother that he would die within the year if he remained involved, she sent him to Los Angeles, which is essentially the story of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
4. The Finish Line
The hostage-taking debacle didn’t get Jackson sent to jail, but he was suspended from Morehouse for two years. He didn’t give up on the school, though, and he returned once his suspension had ended, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama in 1972.
3. “We Don’t All Look Alike!”
In one of the most awkward interviews of all time, an anchor for KTLA mistook Jackson for fellow actor Lawrence Fishburne. Not one to take something like that sitting down, Jackson was sure to put the befuddled anchor in his place.
2. Rough Draft
When Jackson was a young man, the shadow of the Vietnam War constantly hung over him. He had a low number in the draft lottery, and he was terrified of the prospect of being sent to war. “I pretty much had to stay in school. Either I make good grades in school or I’m getting shipped off to Vietnam, which made it very real to me indeed when I was 19.”
1. Rock Bottom
Jackson’s addiction was so bad while he was working as a theater actor in New York that he claims he never once stepped on stage without having some kind of drug in his body. He finally hit rock bottom in 1991, when his daughter found him unconscious in the kitchen surrounded by drugs and paraphernalia. That was the breaking point he needed to get clean.