Samuel Leroy Jackson (born December 21, 1948) is an American actor and film producer. He achieved prominence and critical acclaim in the early 1990s with films such as Jungle Fever (1991), Patriot Games (1992), Amos & Andrew (1993), True Romance (1993), Jurassic Park (1993) and his collaborations with director Quentin Tarantino in the films Pulp Fiction (1994) and Jackie Brown (1997). He is a highly prolific actor, appearing in over 100 films, including Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Unbreakable (2000), Shaft (2000), The 51st State (2001), Black Snake Moan (2006), Snakes on a Plane (2006) and the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999–2005), as well as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With Jackson’s permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimate version of the Marvel Comics character Nick Fury. He later cameoed as the character in a post-credits scene from Iron Man (2008), and went on to sign a nine-film commitment to reprise this role in future films, including major roles in Iron Man 2 (2010), Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and minor roles in Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). He has also portrayed the character in the second and final episodes of the first season of the TV show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
Jackson has achieved critical and commercial acclaim, surpassing Frank Welker as the actor with the highest grossing film total of all time in October 2011, and he has received numerous accolades and awards. He is married to LaTanya Richardson, with whom he has a daughter, Zoe. Samuel L. Jackson is ranked as the highest all-time box office star with over $4.572 billion total box office gross, an average of $70.3 million per film.
Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Elizabeth (née Montgomery) and Roy Henry Jackson. He 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 only met his father twice during his life. Jackson was raised by his mother, 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. While he eventually learned to “pretend to be other people who didn’t stutter” and use the curse word, motherfucker as an affirmation word, he still has days where he stutters.
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”.
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 1982). In 2009, they started their own charitable organization to help support education. Jackson has said he attends each of his films in theaters with paying customers, saying: “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.
Jackson is bald, but enjoys wearing wigs in his films. He said about 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. He usually gets to pick his own hairstyles for each character he portrays. He poked 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 kept receiving more and more bald roles and had to keep shaving his head so that wigs could be made for him. He joked that “the only way I’m gonna have time to grow my hair back is if I’m not working”.
Jackson has a clause in his film contracts that allows him to play golf during film shoots. He has played in the Gary Player Invitational charity golf tournament to assist Gary Player in raising funds for children in South Africa. Jackson is a keen basketball fan, supporting the Toronto Raptors and the Harlem Globetrotters. He supports the soccer team Liverpool F.C. since appearing in The 51st State. He also supports Irish soccer team Bohemian F.C.
Jackson campaigned during the 2008 Democratic Primary for 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. That’s why other folks vote for other people – because they look like them”. He compared his Django Unchained character, a villainous house slave, to black conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, saying that “I have the same moral compass as Clarence Thomas does”.
In June 2013, Jackson launched a joint campaign with the charity Prizeo in an effort to raise money to fight Alzheimer’s disease. As part of the campaign, he recited various fan-written monologues and a popular scene from the AMC series Breaking Bad. In August 2013, he started a vegan diet for health reasons, explaining that he is “just trying to live forever”, and attributes a 40 lb weight loss to his new diet. He launched a campaign called “One for the Boys”, which teaches men about testicular cancer and urges them to “get themselves checked out”.