Star Wars: Where Are They Now? #9 – Samuel L. Jackson
As an early film enthusiast, Samuel Leroy Jackson frequently visited the local theatre in Chattanooga, Tennessee. However, he only felt inspired to become an actor in 1969, when he watched a performance by the Negro Ensemble Company. With a new purpose in life, Jackson returned to the college he was initially expelled from to pursue the study of acting. After achieving his degree in 1972, Samuel joined the Black Image Theatre Company alongside his future wife, LaTanya Richardson. They toured the company and performed politically-charged comedy skits until 1976. In 1981, Jackson had two life-changing encounters. Firstly, he met and befriended fellow actor Morgan Freeman, who predicted Samuel’s successful acting career. And secondly, film student Spike Lee urged the up-and-comer to appear in his early works. As the drug-addicted Gator in Lee’s Jungle Fever, Jackson finally caught the attention of critics. His performance was so award-worthy that the judges at the Cannes Film Festival created a Best Supporting Actor category so that Jackson never walked away empty-handed. However, the role forced Samuel to face his own off-screen demon. Thankfully, he managed to overcome an increasingly destructive addiction to drugs and alcohol, making his professional success a personal one also. In 1994, after years spent building a reputation as one of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood, Jackson landed one of his career’s most pivotal roles. As Jules Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino's cult classic Pulp Fiction, Samuel cemented himself as a world renown actor. And, following a string of box office successes, Jackson eagerly accepted the role of Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. But how has Samuel’s career played out since? Well, let’s find out!
As well as portraying Mace Windu throughout the Star Wars prequels, Jackson voiced the Jedi Master in the animated movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars and in the fourth instalment in the Lego Star Wars video game series. Even as a supporting character, Windu became a fan favourite. And so, combined with the fact that Mace was inconspicuously killed off in Episode III, many hope the Jedi Master will make a return to the Star Wars galaxy. Spearheading these rumours are Jackson himself, who desires nothing more than to don the Jedi robes one final time:
“In my mind I’m not dead. Jedi can fall incredibly high distances and not die.”
Insisting he will return as Mace Windu at some point, Jackson lobbied for an appearance in 2015’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. However, considering his negative comments on the movie’s lightsaber duels, maybe it was for the best he sat that one out.
Away from Star Wars, Jackson has appeared in over 100 films, including Rules of Engagement, Unbreakable, xXx, Kill Bill: Vol.2, The Incredibles, Snakes on a Plane, The Other Guys, RoboCop and Kingsman: The Secret Service. He also reunited with Quintin Tarantino in 2012’s Django Unchained and 2015’s The Hateful Eight. However, he is perhaps most renown for his performances as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In 2002, Samuel gave his consent for Marvel Comics to use his likeness for their “Ultimate” version of Nick Fury. Then in 2009, following his cameo as the character in Iron Man, Jackson signed a nine-picture deal with Marvel. As a result, he appeared in Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron. As part of the agreement, Samuel is set to appear in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Other future works include xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017), The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017) and Kong: Skull Island (2017). Despite making his name on the silver screen, Jackson has appeared in several TV shows and has lent his voice to many audiobooks and video games.
To add to his many successes, The Guinness Book of World Records named Samuel L. Jackson the highest grossing movie actor of all time in 2011. Furthermore, he has been honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With all of his success, Jackson has felt compelled to aid those less fortunate than most. So, in 2009, he and his wife began their own charitable organisation to help support education. In addition, in 2013, Jackson launched a joint campaign with the charity Prizeo to combat Alzheimer’s disease.
Even at his current age of 67, Jackson doesn’t seem to be slowing down, so expect this “Bad Motherf***er” to stick around for many more years to come…
So, what did you think of Jackson’s performances as Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequel trilogy? And what do you make of his career thus far? Let me know in the comments below.