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Samuel L. Jackson

By Jarrod Sarafin     March 26, 2007

Samuel L. Jackson
© N/A

When talking about the great character actors of modern cinema, only a handful of individuals spring to that movie homage infested brain of mine. These are the actors who can fit into the shoes of any given character with such style that they make a lasting imprint on the movie culture’s conscience. As you’re leaving the theater and you’re making your way to your car, their performances have you remembering great quotes from said movie to the point where you forget anything else. They utterly steal the scenes given to them. They make bad movies good to a point where Joe Moviegoer forgets about the less cash in their wallets. Their performances have movie fan boys quoting their lines at parties years after the film’s release. They leave their imprints on our pop culture. 

I can name a few actors which know how to fit into any role their agent hands them. Gary Oldman, John C. Reilly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Al Pacino Geoffrey Rush, Samuel L Jackson churn out performances in such a wide variety, they leave audiences in awe at times. From tapping an artistic composer’s imagination to shooting a drug dealing cop, these guys truly know how to switch into such a wide spectrum of character driven roles.   

They leave their impact on Hollywood and on audiences everywhere. 

One such man with the power to verbally smack you upside the head with a great performance is Samuel L. Jackson. This man is truly one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood and respected immensely because of it in inner industry circles.

Jackson was born in Washington, DC on December 21, 1948 but he grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He eventually began his pursuit of acting back at Morehouse College where he made his film debut in “Together for Days”. The reason he switched his major in college to the acting field is because he suffered from a stutter. Apparently, a speech therapist suggested he audition for a play which he ended up doing and it worked.  He was briefly suspended from college in 1969 for taking several board of trustees’ hostage including the father of Rev. Martin Luther King during a protest on civil rights issues regarding the school. It should be said he was later an usher at Dr. King Jr’s funeral as well. He went on to graduate in 1972. Samuel didn’t immediately go into movies after college, instead making his way in different career paths one of which was being a door man at a Manhattan Plaza apartment which was home to many famous actors and artists at that time. He struggled to find work for a time but eventually started sneaking into bit roles here and there. In 1980, he married his wife LaTanya Richardson and their still together 27 years later. In 81 while still struggling with work & drugs, he appeared in a little known movie named Ragtime where he plays a gang member. In 82, him and wife LaTanya welcomed their daughter Zoe and it’s around this time where he dropped out of the industry scene for a while. He would do occasional TV spots but nothing’s really credited between 82-87 other then being a stand in for Bill Cosby on the Cosby Show. Another role was playing Eddie Murphy’s Uncle on a skit in the now famous standup Eddie Murphy Raw.

Samuel began his actual movie career playing two bit bad guys and drug addicts which was a time in his life when he was at an all time low and he was on drugs himself. In fact, Jackson was on drugs until sometime in 1991 when he checked himself into a rehab clinic shortly before playing a drug addict in Jungle Fever. He made a choice to recover at this point in his life and it was Jungle Fever which made heads turn in Hollywood. Jackson made movie history with his portrayal of a crack addict in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever" when he was awarded the first and only Best Supporting Performance Award ever given by the judges at the Cannes Film Festival. He also won the New York Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor for that performance. From there, he made great decisions on where to go next. It should also be noted that before making a name for himself and in circles from Jungle, he was also played a small time bit part in Goodfellas which starred Robert Deniro. He would later star with Deniro in Jackie Brown. From 92-95 he appeared in Patriot Games, Menace to Society, Jurassic Park, White Sands, & True Romance. He went from little two bit characters to widely known exposed films in a span of 2 years flat and just like that, he was a force to be reckoned with in pop culture.  

It wasn’t long at all before he was propelled towards Icon Status after portraying Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction), Zeus Carver (Die Hard with a Vengeance), Carl Lee Hailey (A Time to Kill), & Mitch Henessey (Long Kiss Goodnight).  

His resume is a mile long at this point in his career. Sure, you can say he’s involved with “misses” but when you’re talking about the amount of films he’s appeared in, it’s damn well impossible not to have misses along with the hits. Every actor goes through it and the goal should always be to move on to their next upcoming project and correct the previous movie’s mistakes. Here’s the thing though, even with bad movies, great actors won’t be considered the reason the movie failed. It could be bad timing, a horrible story or production failures which contributed to the movie’s failure. I’d say this is the cause 90 percent of the time with any given miss.  

Here’s a listing of how many movies Samuel L Jackson appeared in each perspective year: 

1990: 7 movies

1991: 3 movies

1992: 5 movies

1993: 5 movies

1994: 5 movies

1995: 4 movies

1996: 5 movies

1997: 3 movies

1998: 3 movies

1999: 3 movies

2000: 4 movies

2001: 2 movies

2002: 5 movies

2003: 2 movies

2004: 4 movies

2005: 4 movies

2006: 4 movies 

The man knows how to get exposed. Perhaps over-exposed but with all these films and yes, even the occasional miss or “I don’t even remember that movie” role, he’s also placed his abilities in the shoes of some very memorable characters. He is nicknamed the “King of Cool” for a reason, Maniacs. His characters have always had that ice cool demeanor about themselves. Who here can’t spout Jules (Pulp Fiction) at the drop of a hat? Who will ever forget his explosion in the courtroom of A Time To Kill that caused audiences everywhere to cheer for a killer?  

It can be said that Samuel is not only the King of Cool but could also be considered the King of Bad Ass Quotes. 

Carl Lee Hailey: Yes, they deserved to die and I hope they burn in hell! 

Jules: Normally, both your asses would be dead as fucking fried chicken, but you happen to pull this shit while I'm in a transitional period so I don't wanna kill you, I wanna help you. But I can't give you this case, it don't belong to me. Besides, I've already been through too much shit this morning over this case to hand it over to your dumb ass. 

Jules: There's a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you. I been sayin' that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your ass. I never really questioned what it meant. I thought it was just a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker before you popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some shit this mornin' made me think twice. Now I'm thinkin': it could mean you're the evil man. And I'm the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here, he's the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could be you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. I'd like that. But that shit ain't the truth. The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd. 

Zeus: Morning.  
John McClane: Good morning.  
Zeus: You having a nice day, sir? You feeling all right? Not to get too personal, but a white man standing in the middle of Harlem wearing a sign that says "I hate niggas" has either got some serious personal issues, or not all his dogs are barking.  
[McClane yawns]  
Zeus: Hey! I'm talking to you! Now you've got about ten seconds before those guys see you, and when they do they will kill you do you understand? You're about to have a very bad day.  
John McClane: Tell me about it. 

Zeus: Why do you keep calling me 'Jesus'? Do I look Puerto Rican to you?  
John McClane: Guy back there called you 'Jesus'.  
Zeus: He didn't say 'Jesus'. He said, "Hey, Zeus!" My name is Zeus.  
John McClane: Zeus?  
Zeus: Yeah, Zeus. As in father of Apollo? Mt. Olympus? Don't fuck with me or I'll shove a lightning bolt up your ass? Zeus! You got a problem with that? 

These are just 3 memorable characters he’s portrayed. If I were to get a full listing of bad ass character quotes (Snakes on a Plane!), we’d be in the neighborhood of 10-20 pages of great and memorable cinematic quotes. Instead, why don’t you Maniacs come up with your own favorite quotalicious lines? There’s a reason Samuel Jackson is an Icon in the Hollywood film industry. The ability to play characters as memorable as these for movie audiences everywhere is one of these reasons. 

Much like the exposure factor contributing to his popularity, the sheer amount of films he’s appeared & starred in has him in the Number 1 spot of All Time Box Office Record by Actor.  

Rank Actor No. Films


Avg. Gross Per Film Films Over 100.0 mil Total Gross Total Movies
1 Samuel L. Jackson 37 63.0 mil 11 3.7 billion 68
2 Harrison Ford 28 109.9 mil 11 3.2 billion 34
3 Tom Hanks 30 102.2 mil 14 3.0 billion 32
4 Eddie Murphy 30 97.2 mil 11 2.9 billion 30
5 Tom Cruise 25 105.5 mil 13 2.5 billion 27
6 Robin Williams 33 64.5 mil 9 2.3 billion 43
7 Bruce Willis 39 52.8 mil 6 2.2 billion 43
8 Morgan Freeman 33 51.3 mil 10 2.2 billion 43
9 Gene Hackman 66 35.4 mil 6 2.1 billion 78
10 Mel Gibson 33 69.6 mil 10 2.1 billion 35


He took over the 1st place spot on the all time listing chart over Harrison Ford back in 2004 with the huge success of Pixar’s The Incredibles. 

 Jackson has 1408 coming out later this year and he’s currently working on Cleaner(2007), Black Water Transit(2007), Jumper(2008), Lakeview Terrace(2008) and 2004: A Light Knight’s Odyssey(2009). It’s obvious, Samuel isn’t slowing down anytime soon.  

This is going to do it for this weeks edition of Star Spotlight! Talk to you later, Maniacs.


Showing items 1 - 9 of 9
ashscousin 3/26/2007 2:33:35 AM
[pointing his gun] "Say what again. SAY WHAT AGAIN. I dare you, I double dare you, motherfucker. Say what one more goddamn time." There's no body cooler than Sam. Well maybe Bruce Campbell
wessmith1966 3/26/2007 8:26:49 AM
Jackson is the man. Although he's been in some bad movies, he always makes a movie better. He's been the only saving grace in a few movies he's been in. I like that he just seems to have fun in anything that he does; from films to award shows to interviews.
MIKWOZ 3/26/2007 11:24:24 AM
do we need to get into how bad he was robbed for not winning an oscar for Jules in pulp fiction? we all know who should have won, don't we.
MIKWOZ 3/26/2007 11:24:42 AM
do we need to get into how bad he was robbed for not winning an oscar for Jules in pulp fiction? we all know who should have won, don't we.
ponyboy76 3/26/2007 11:30:59 AM
Sam Jackson is "the motherfuckin" Man!
bjjdenver 3/26/2007 11:51:23 AM
Gotta agree, SLJ is the man! Dude is just cool and smooth. He does make every movie he's in better. One of my favorite SLJ roles was in The Long Kiss Goodnight, I love when he's singing about getting his gun. Caught Pulp a couple times this weekend, it was playing on tv while I was working around the house. It is easy to forget how great he was in that movie, and as good as it was, without him it would have been much weaker.
20105 3/26/2007 12:47:54 PM
I think calling SLJ a "character actor" is an insult. Would you classify Brando as such? If not, are Jackson and DiCaprio on the same list? If so, is DiCaprio a character actor too? That's like calling a culinary chef "cookie". Don't get me wrong, I love character actors. Ron Howard's brother is great, but he ain't no SLJ.
creamygnome 3/26/2007 3:34:33 PM
I really don't understand people liking crap. Pulp Fiction was just trying too hard. It was alright, but I wouldn't call it "GREAT" nor do I need to ever see it again. SLJ doesn't act, he's himself in every movie. He just turns up the attitude for certain roles. I've never been impressed.
ponyboy76 3/27/2007 10:38:42 AM
Well, I`m sure Sam Jackson, has many sleepless nights worrying about how you aren`t impressed by what he does in movies.


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