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Jackson, Samuel L.(1948–) - Actor, Chronology, Overcoming Addictions

film star role

Samuel L. Jackson is the quintessential example of a steady rise to success, and his work ethic serves as a model of perseverance. After having a showy role in Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever , Jackson continued to work as if each new role might be his last. From Pulp Fiction to Unbreakable to Coach Carter , he showed versatility and willingness to take chances.

Samuel Leroy Jackson was born on December 21, 1948 in Washington, D.C. to a mother, Elizabeth, a clothing buyer, and a father who would soon abandon them. Without support from Samuel’s father, Elizabeth had difficulty trying to raise her son, an only child. While he was still very young, she sent Samuel to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to live with his grandparents and an aunt. She joined them in Chattanooga a few years later.

Living in that segregated southern city had a lasting effect on Jackson. Once, at five years of age, while sitting on the front porch, he whistled at a pretty white girl walking by on the sidewalk. Immediately, his mom, grandmother, and aunt were out on the porch scolding him. They worried that such an innocent act might result in somebody getting killed; such was the brand of bigotry practiced by whites on blacks at the time. There were always things that he could not do or places he was not allowed to go, based on the color of his skin.

At an early age Jackson began appearing in the local children’s productions staged by his aunt. He starred as Humpty Dumpty and the Sugar Plum Fairy in two of those productions. His stutter, however, made him self-conscious about being the center of attention. Fearing that Samuel was not getting enough opportunity to
develop in the male world, his mother insisted that he play Little League baseball when he was ten. Baseball proved the beginning of his love affair with sports in general. By high school, he had developed into a talented all-around athlete. At Chattanooga’s all-black Riverside High, he participated on the swimming and track teams. He also played in the school’s marching band and was popular enough to be elected senior class president.




Born in Washington, D.C. on December 21


Takes part in the lockup of the Board of Trustees at Morehouse College


Earns a dramatic arts degree from Morehouse College; makes his motion picture debut in Together for Days


Marries LaTanya Richardson


Stars in the Negro Ensemble Company’s stage production A Soldier’s Play


Daughter Zoe is born


Earns awards for his performance in the movie Jungle Fever ; enters rehab for drug and alcohol addiction


Pulp Fiction establishes him as a major movie star; receives Oscar nomination


Produces and stars in Eve’s Bayou


Stars in first of three Star Wars films


Reportedly earns $10 million for Shaft


Voices superhero Frozone in animated blockbuster The Incredibles

Overcoming Addictions

Unfortunately, during the entire period of his emergence as an actor, Jackson never worked without an illegal or controlled substance in his body. He drank alcohol to excess, always willing to be the life of the party and show that he could imbibe more than his colleagues. That was the public side of his substance abuse, but the private side was even worse. He smoked marijuana, dropped acid, snorted cocaine, and used anything else that would get him high. Worst of all, he did not confine his drug use to non-working hours: he later admitted that anytime he went on stage he had some sort of drug in his body. It got even worse in that latter half of the 1980s when Jackson began smoking crack cocaine. In addition to his drug problems, Jackson was also a perpetual womanizer. Through it all, his wife LaTanya remained by his side, trying to help him become the man she believed that he could be. With the support of his family, Jackson finally sought treatment for his addictions in early 1991 by entering rehab. Over the next several years, he spent countless hours attending Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings learning how to live a life of sobriety. He also recommitted himself to LaTanya and their daughter.

In early 1991, Jackson returned to series television as a guest in a first-season episode of NBC’s long-running crime drama Law & Order . He also appeared that fall in a first-season episode of the Fox comedy Roc . His breakthrough role, however, came on the big screen, in Spike Lee’s interracial love story Jungle Fever . In that film, Jackson portrayed the character Gator Purify, the brother of the character played by Wesley Snipes, the star of the film. While still in rehab, Jackson, who had been cast earlier, pleaded with Lee not to recast the role due to his personal problems. Two weeks after completing rehab, Jackson began acting the role of the intense, crack-addicted Gator, bringing an unusual amount of realism to his portrayal. At the Cannes International Film Festival, Jackson was awarded a rare special jury prize for his outstanding performance in a supporting role. Later that year, he also earned the New York Film Critics Circle Award for best supporting actor. The expected Academy Award nomination never came, but the visibility of the performance greatly enhanced his employability.

Over the next two years, though his was not exactly a household name, Jackson was developing into a star. Continuing his philosophy of working as much as possible, he took the best offers that came his way, not concerned about the size of the role or magnitude of the production. In television series, made-for-television movies, and roles in minor flicks and major motion pictures, Jackson was always working. Among the highlights of his many credits was the acclaimed television series I’ll Fly Away ; the movies Juice, White Sands and Patriot Games , both in 1992; and the movies Loaded Weapon 1, Amos & Andrew (in which he received top billing for the first time), Menace II Society and the blockbuster Jurassic Park , all in 1993.

In 1994, Jackson and Richardson switched coasts when they moved from their Harlem brownstone to a Tudor-style home in Encino, California. The move was meant to benefit the television and motion picture careers of both Jackson and Richardson, whose career was also on the rise. She had landed roles in such popular movies as Fried Green Tomatoes, Malcolm X and Sleepless in Seattle , as well as TV roles in such hits as Law & Order and Cheers during the early 1990s. The move also resulted in Jackson’s introduction to golf. He quickly became an avid enthusiast, replacing his former addictions with a new, socially acceptable one. Within a few years, once he had garnered the necessary sway, Jackson was having tee times written into his movie contracts, so that his passion for the game could be balanced with his work schedule.

In Hollywood, Jackson continued working at his usual, frenetic pace. In 1994, his credits included the film Fresh , and the television movies Assault at West Point: The Court-Martial of Johnson Whittaker and Against the Wall . The move to the A-list, however, came via a medium-budgeted action feature directed by Quentin Tarantino, who had just one previous directorial credit. Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction became the sleeper hit of the decade, a watershed film in terms of story construction and a boon to the careers of everyone involved. In addition to Jackson, the latter was also particularly true of John Travolta, a seemingly washed-up actor, who starred alongside Jackson as a pair of hit men who propel much of the action in the highly episodic film. Jackson, as the Jheri-curled, scripture-quoting tough guy Jules Winnfield, provided the perfect companion to Travolta’s loopy killer.

Playing for months with steady business, Pulp Fiction became a cultural phenomenon. The movie went on to win numerous critics awards and was nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences for the best picture Oscar. For Jackson, it also meant his first Oscar nomination, as he was nominated in the supporting actor category. On March 21, 1995, just prior to the Oscar telecast, Jackson appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and proved a very natural, yet lively guest. It was not long before Jackson was a regular guest on many talk shows. Ultimately, he lost the Oscar to Martin Landau, for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood , but Jackson had become a star.

Due to the lag time between a movie’s production and its actual release date, some of Jackson’s film credits for the following year did not yet reflect his rise in status brought on by Pulp Fiction . For instance, 1995 saw the release of the kids’ flick Fluke , in which Jackson voiced the title character, a dog. Likewise, neither Raising Isaiah (in which LaTanya Richardson also appeared) nor Kiss of Death did big business that year, but Die Hard: With a Vengeance certainly did. Playing sidekick to Bruce Willis, Jackson received rave reviews for his portrayal of Zeus Carver, adding a human dimension to a big-budget, special effects-laden crime thriller sequel that could easily have just been played by the numbers.

Among the higher profile projects in which Jackson appeared during 1996 were the comedy The Great White Hype and the action thriller The Long Kiss Goodnight . Sandwiched between those disappointing productions was the release of the courtroom drama A Time to Kill , in which Jackson starred as Carl Lee Hailey, a Mississippi man accused of murdering the two white men who raped his 10-year-old daughter. Based on the John Grisham novel, the film was one of the top hits of the year. The following year he starred in the high school/gang violence drama 187 , before adding a new credit to his resume, that of producer, for the period drama Eve’s Bayou .

Set in 1962 Louisiana, Jackson also co-starred, playing a womanizing doctor and head of a family keeping many secrets. Eve’s Bayou , the writing and directing debut of actress Kasi Lemmons, garnered critical raves (including Roger Ebert’s naming it his top film of 1997), but had a lukewarm box-office reception. Jackson’s final screen appearance of the year was in the crime drama Jackie Brown , in which he teamed again with Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino. As vicious arms dealer Ordell Robbie, Jackson’s dialogue is sprinkled with curse words and the heavy use of the “n-word.” Spike Lee publicly denounced Jackson for agreeing to repeatedly say the “n-word” in the movie, especially because Tarantino, a white filmmaker, penned it. Jackson defended Tarantino whole-heartedly, saying that the dialogue was true to the character. He further stood up for Tarantino’s right to exercise creative license. Though they strongly disagreed on the issue, he and Lee remained friends. Jackie Brown did not prove the box office bonanza that Pulp Fiction was, but it did moderate business and received excellent critical notices.

Four more movies hit the big screen for Jackson in 1998: Sphere, Out of Sight, The Negotiator and The Red Violin . On January 10, 1998, Jackson took his celebrity status to a new level when he hosted NBC’s sketch-comedy institution Saturday Night Live . He followed that up by hosting the 1998 MTV Movie Awards . With his standard Kangol cap (always rakishly worn backwards) and flashy but nattily tailored suits, Jackson was quickly becoming the ambassador of cool. Soon, in addition to talk shows, Jackson was a regular guest on award and entertainment magazine shows, as well as a favorite interview subject for Hollywood documentaries and celebrity profiles. Among the programs he has hosted are From Star Wars to Star Wars: The Story of Industrial Light & Magic (1999), Comic Books & Superheroes (2001) and The ESPY Awards (2002).

Jackson was among many celebrities who lent their voices to My Friend Martin , a one-hour cartoon based on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., which was nominated in the Outstanding Animated Program category of the 1999 Emmy Awards. His two other major projects for 1999 were supporting roles. He played a rich businessman who finances an Alzheimer’s research project at an underwater laboratory in the sharks-versus-humans thriller Deep Blue Sea . He was also cast as Jedi Master Mace Windu in George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace . His role grew in importance and his screen time increased in the next two episodes of the series: Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith (2005). In the latter, he had an exhilarating light saber duel to the death with the saga’s ultimate evildoer, Darth Sidious.

By the end of the 1990s, Jackson was believed to have appeared in more Hollywood films during the decade—over forty—than any other actor. His extraordinary pace did not slow upon the arrival of the new millennium. In addition to Rules of Engagement and Unbreakable (playing a demented, yet fragile villain) in 2000, Jackson starred in the title role of Shaft , playing the nephew of the character from the 1971 version played by Richard Roundtree. For playing police detective John Shaft, Jackson reportedly earned $10 million. In 2001, Jackson served as an executive producer on two movies in which he starred: Formula 51 (donning kilts) and The Caveman’s Valentine . The following year he appeared in such titles as Changing Lanes, The House on Turk Street , and xXx . In 2003, Jackson teamed again with John Travolta for the military drama Basic and starred in the film version of the 1970s television series S.W.AT .

Jackson appeared on screen in several movies during 2004, including In My Country (in which he engages in a love affair with French actress Juliette Binoche), Twisted , and Kill Bill 2 . He also served that year as the voice of superhero Frozone in the blockbuster animated film The Incredibles. Coach Carter , which had Jackson portraying a real-life high school basketball coach who positively affected the lives of the students at an inner-city school, got 2005 off to a fine start. xXx: State of the Union, The Man and Freedomland rounded out another year in the career of the prolific actor.

Samuel L. Jackson had arrived. He has had a career doing what he loves, and he is so good at it that in an often-iffy business, he manages to work as much as he wants, which is constantly. And he has the love of a good woman, who has helped him in becoming a good husband and father.

Jackson, Samuel L. (1949–) [next] [back] Jackson, Robert R.(1870–1942) - Politician, entrepreneur, soldier, Chronology, Chicago Politics

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