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Samuel Leroy Jackson (born December 21, 1948) is an American film and television actor and producer. After Jackson became involved with the Civil Rights Movement, he moved on to acting in theater at Morehouse College, and then films. He had several small roles, before meeting his mentor, Morgan Freeman, and the director Spike Lee. In 1991, after gaining critical acclaim for his role in Jungle Fever, he joined the casts of more films, including Goodfellas, Patriot Games, Amos & Andrew, True Romance and Jurassic Park. In 1994 he was cast as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, where he 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, Snakes on a Plane, as well as the Star Wars prequel trilogy and small roles in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Inglourious Basterds. 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 one daughter, Zoe.
Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. He grew up as an only child in Chattanooga, Tennessee with his mother, Elizabeth Jackson (née Montgomery), who was a factory worker and later a supplies buyer for a mental institution, and his maternal grandparents and extended family. 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 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. He later attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he co-founded the "Just Us Theatre" before graduating in 1972.
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 expelled, 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.
1970s – 1980s
—Jackson reacting to his new fame in 1993.
Jackson initially went to Morehouse College to major in Architecture, but decided to change his major to 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 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.
After completing these films, Jackson's cocaine addiction had worsened. As a result, 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. 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, dramas Juice and Patriot Games, and 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 Tarantino-penned True Romance directed by Tony Scott Jackson played his breakout role of Jules in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction in 1994, the role which made him internationally recognized. For this performance, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as well as a Golden Globe nomination and a BAFTA Best Supporting Actor award win.
With a succession of unsuccessful 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 a 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 director Quentin Tarantino and received a Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear for Best Actor 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 which can be found 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, where he played a homeless musician in a murder thriller. 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 a 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.
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 began with 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, 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. 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 prior to 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.
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.
Television and other roles
In addition to films, Jackson also appeared in several television shows, a video game, as well as an audiobook. 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, and 2007). 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.
Jackson gave his approval for Marvel to use his likeness for the Ultimate Nick Fury. In 2008, he portrayed the character in Iron Man
Jackson has several upcoming film projects between 2010 and 2011. In 2010, he will provide his voice for the animated educational science fiction film, Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey, play a terrorist intent on attacking London in Blown, as well as a police officer in Rape: A Love Story. In 2010, he will star in the drama Mother and Child and will portray an interrogator who attempts to locate several nuclear weapons in Unthinkable.
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, The First Avenger: Captain America, and The Avengers as well as any other sequels they would produce.
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". In motion pictures that feature him as a leading actor or supporting co-star, his films have grossed a total of $2.38 to $4.48 billion at the North American box office, placing him as the ninth (as strictly lead) or the second highest-grossing movie star (counting supporting roles) of all time; behind only that of voice actor Frank Welker. In August 2007, Jackson stated in an interview that he wanted to play a small role in George Lucas's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull so that he could keep his box office position over Harrison Ford. 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.
Jackson married actress LaTanya Richardson in 1980, whom he met while attending Morehouse College. In 2009, the couple started their own charitable organization to help support education. The couple, who live in Los Angeles, California, have a daughter, Zoe, born in 1982. She works as a sports channel producer.
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.
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.
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 golf icon 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. He also became a Liverpool F.C. fan after filming The 51st State in Liverpool, England.
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