Birthdate: December 21, 1948
Birthplace: Washington D.C., USA
A beloved and constant presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars universe for a younger generation, Samuel L. Jackson (birthname: Samuel Leroy Jackson) is also known to older audiences as a fiery, funny, and extraordinarily dynamic actor who injected an attitude and new style in his movies that blended comedy with menace, tenderness with intelligence—all depending on what the role called for.
A perfect example of the classically trained actor transferring his gifts to the biggest blockbuster enterprises, Jackson ranks at the top of all lead and supporting actors in film history for total movie gross, nearly $28 billion, and was the recipient of an honorary Academy Award in 2022.
Samuel L. Jackson’s vast body of credits, exceeding 150 feature titles, reads like a survey of major American movies since the late 1980s, when he first broke through in his third film with writer-director Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing (1989), co-starring Lee, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Rudy Dee, Giancarlo Esposito, and John Turturro. It solidified Jackson’s long-running collaboration with Lee, which included striking supporting roles in School Daze (1988), Mo’ Better Blues (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), Old Boy (2013), and Chi-Raq (2015).
Jackson established himself as a prolific actor in 1990, appearing in seven features, including The Exorcist III (the only entry in the series written and directed by author William Peter Blatty), with George C. Scott, Jason Miller, Nicol Williamson, and Brad Dourif, and in Martin Scorsese’s landmark Goodfellas, with Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, and Paul Sorvino.
By 1993, Samuel L. Jackson had firmly established himself as an actor able to work in a wide range of genres, and to take over any scene in which he appeared, as in The Hughes Brothers’ Menace II Society; his first co-starring role in E. Max Frye’s Amos & Andrew, with Nicolas Cage; his first blockbuster role (albeit supporting), in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, with Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Attenborough; and Jackson’s first collaboration of many with Quentin Tarantino, director Tony Scott’s and writer Tarantino’s True Romance, with Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette.
Samuel L. Jackson’s movie star presence exploded in 1994, with his stunning turn as hitman Jules Winfield in Tarantino’s groundbreaking anthology crime/ black comedy, Pulp Fiction, with John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Christopher Walken, and Amanda Plummer. In the same busy year, though Jackson couldn’t top this performance (in some ways, he never has), he made a strong impression in Boaz Yakin’s Fresh and Michael Tolkin’s The New Age, with Judy Davis and Peter Weller.
Jackson’s specialty during this period was crime movies, such as Barbet Schroeder’s Kiss of Death (1995); the hit sequel Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), with Bruce Willis; John Grisham’s A Time to Kill (1996), with Matthew McConaughey; Paul Thomas Anderson’s feature debut, Hard Eight (1996), with John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Philip Baker Hall; Steve Buscemi’s debut as writer-director, Trees Lounge (1996); his first above-the-title role in Kevin Reynolds’s drama, One Eight Seven (1997).
One of Samuel L. Jackson’s wildest crime fiction roles, (and in his own view, his favorite), was his co-starring turn with Geena Davis in the Renny Harlin/Shane Black black comedy, The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). In 1997, Jackson’s elevated position in Hollywood was reflected in his role as producer and co-star on Kasi Lemmon’s feature debut, Eve’s Bayou, with Lynn Witfield.
His second exciting collaboration with director Tarantino was the brilliant adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch, Jackie Brown (1997), with Pam Grier, Robert Forster, and Robert De Niro. The Jackson-Tarantino power couple returned briefly in Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004), then with Jackson as an amusing narrator in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009), with Brad Pitt, followed by one of Jackson’s most flamboyant role as a house slave to Leonardo DiCaprio in Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012), with Jamie Foxx, and as Major Marquis in Tarantino’s revenge Western, The Hateful Eight (2015).
Samuel L. Jackson’s entry into the world of blockbuster franchises—which is now where his acting career fundamentally resides—started in earnest with his Mace Windu in George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace (1999), which continued with Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones (2002), and his Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith (2005), while providing his Mace Windu voice to Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008), and appearing in a Windu cameo in J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019).
Jackson played Agent Augustus Gibbons in the XXX series, starting with XXX (2002), XXX: State of the Union (2005), and returning twelve years later in XXX: Return of Xander Cage (2017), all with Vin Diesel. Samuel L. Jackson’s animation blockbuster was his turn as Lucius Best in Brad Bird’s acclaimed The Incredibles (2004) and Incredibles 2 (2018). A recent mini-franchise that Jackson in which played a central role is the surprise hit, The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) and Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021), with Ryan Reynolds and Salma Hayek.
But nothing in Samuel L. Jackson’s filmography of blockbusters compares with his lengthy credits as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jackson’s nine-plus feature contract with Marvel Studios anticipated that studio’s growing dominance of Hollywood, starting with Iron Man (2008) in a post-credits cameo (similar to mini-appearances in Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger (both in 2011), but then became prominent in Iron Man 2 (2010), The Avengers (2012), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Captain Marvel (2019) (in which Jackson was digitally de-aged), Avengers: Endgame (2019) and the continuation of the Captain Marvel franchise, director Nia DaCosta’s The Marvels (2023), with Brie Larson.
Recently, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury has expanded his reach into other MCU worlds, such as Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), with Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal; and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), with Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. Taken together, the worldwide gross of his MCU movies accounts for much of Jackson’s status as the top-grossing film actor.
Samuel L. Jackson’s most successful non-MCU movies include the dark horse surprise hit, Snakes on a Plane (2006); Frank Miller’s comic book noir, The Spirit (2008); the reboot RoboCop (2014); Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015); and Kong: Skull Island (2017), the highest-grossing film in the “MonsterVerse” franchise universe. Jackson has a long record of voice performances in animation and children’s features, starting with Fluke (1995), with Matthew Modine; the two editions of The Incredibles; the Hong Kong-produced Astro Boy (2009); the JPL/NASA-initiated animated science fiction adventure, Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey (2010); the South African-produced animated comedy, Zambezia (2012); DreamWorks Animation’s 3D sports comedy, Turbo (2013); and Nickelodeon Movies’ animated spoof of Blazing Saddles, Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (2022), with Michael Cera, Ricky Gervais, Michelle Yeoh, and Mel Brooks. Samuel L. Jackson has provided his distinctive voice to several interesting non-fiction movies, most notably Raoul Peck’s brilliant, Oscar-nominated profile of author James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro (2016).
D.C.-born Samuel L. Jackson is the son of Elizabeth and Roy Jackson and was raised by Elizabeth and his grandparents. Jackson attended and graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he was active in issues around Black students and the Civil Rights Movement. Samuel L. Jackson has been married to LaTanya Jackson since 1980; they have one daughter, Zoe, born in 1982. His height is 6’ 2”.
Student Protest: Samuel L. Jackson was briefly suspended from Morehouse College after taking hostage trustee board members of the college during Black student protests demanding a Black Studies program and Black board members.
Theater as Therapy: Jackson’s deep dive into theater as an actor began with a need to eliminate a stutter which had dogged him since childhood.
U.N. Youth: During his student years, Samuel L. Jackson participated in Model United Nations, in which youth around the world participated in gatherings shadowing and modeling the U.N. General Assembly.
Avid Golfer: Jackson’s enthusiasm for golf is so serious that he has a clause in his movie contracts guaranteeing him access to golf courses, regardless of the film’s shooting location.
Number One: Samuel L. Jackson is the top-grossing actor of all time in combined lead and supporting appearances for all of his movies to date, with nearly $27.7 billion in earnings, and number two of all time in terms of U.S. ticket sales (more than 741,800,000).
Nest Egg: Jackson’s estimated net worth is $250 million.