Samuel L. Jackson has one of the most recognised faces and voices in Hollywood.
But before he became an actor, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard star used his voice to enact political and social change as a university student.
In fact, it was this activism — and an almost run-in with the FBI — that ultimately led him to Hollywood…
How did Samuel L. Jackson get into acting?
Samuel L. Jackson attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia — a school predominately for people of colour — and it was here he developed his love for acting.
But the road to Hollywood wasn’t a straight path for the budding thespian. It took a dramatic turn of events involving the FBI that eventually saw him packing his bags for Tinseltown.
From a young age, Jackson wanted to be a marine biologist but became involved in the civil rights movement. Heavily influenced by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, Jackson — who served as an usher at the political figure’s funeral in 1968 — travelled to Memphis, Tennessee, to an equal rights protest. Jackson would quickly become very active in standing up for political and social injustices.
“I was angry about the assassination, but I wasn’t shocked by it,” he later told Parade in 2005. “I knew that change was going to take something different — not sit-ins, not peaceful co-existence.”
In 1969, Jackson was intent on bringing change to Morehouse College. He and many other students were not happy that the school’s Board of Trustees consisted mostly of white men. In an effort to get the balance right, Jackson and his crew held the board hostage and demanded people of colour be hired in positions of power. The board agreed to the demands after two days, but Jackson and his fellow activists were expelled from Morehouse College.
“I was in that radical faction,” Jackson told Parade. “We were buying guns, getting ready for armed struggle. All of a sudden. I felt I had a voice. I was somebody. I could make a difference.”
However, the expulsion only fuelled Jackson’s activism which in turn put him on the FBI’s radar. It wasn’t long before agents turned up on the doorstep of his Atlanta home. They told his mother, a government worker, that if Jackson stayed in the city, he would be targeted. Deeply concerned, she sent him packing for LA.
“My mum showed up and put me on a plane to LA,” Jackson told the magazine. “She said, ‘Do not come back to Atlanta.’ The FBI had been to the house and told her that if I didn’t get out of Atlanta, there was a good possibility I’d be dead within a year. She freaked out.”
Jackson would later return to Morehouse College in 1971 to receive his acting degree.
What was Samuel L. Jackson’s first acting role?
One year after receiving his degree from Morehouse College, Jackson made his film debut in the political drama Together For Days. He was 24.
The 1972 drama followed a Black activist and a young white woman who found themselves attracted to one another during the racially charged civil rights movement in the US. The role was the perfect fit for the actor as he knew that world all too well.
What was Samuel L. Jackson’s big break?
Jackson consistently worked in TV and film throughout the ’70s and ’80s, albeit in bit parts on projects such as Goodfellas and Coming to America. But it wasn’t until the mid-’90s that he made his mark, aged 46.
While many think it was the 1994 Quentin Tarantino-directed film Pulp Fiction that made him a “big star”, Jackson believes it was the 1995 action movie Die Hard with a Vengeance — the third film in the popular franchise — that changed his life.
“I became a recognisable star after [Pulp Fiction], but I don’t know about a big star,” he told Vogue in 2018. “Here’s the thing. Bruce Willis and I were doing Die Hard With a Vengeance when Pulp Fiction came out and we went to Cannes together to watch Pulp Fiction play for the first time. We both thought, ‘Wow, this is great!’
“And Bruce said, ‘Yeah, this is good and this film will make you recognisable, but Die Hard‘s going to make you a star. Die Hard will change your life.’ And it’s true. Die Hard With a Vengeance was the highest-grossing film in the world that year. That changed the agenda.”
What is Samuel Jackson worth?
As of June 2021, Samuel L. Jackson is worth a reported US$250 million (approx. $325 million).
Jackson is also one of the highest-grossing actors of all time. With 194 acting credits to his name, his films have racked in a collective US$28 billion (approx. $36 billion) worldwide.
How much does Samuel L Jackson make per movie?
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Jackson takes home between US$10 million to US$20 million (approx. $13 million to $25 million) per movie on a major production.
It’s also reported he earns between US$4 million to $6 million (approx. $5 million to $7 million) every time he plays the character of Nick Fury in a Marvel movie, and he earns that ballpark amount even when only having one or two lines in the film.
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