For many of us, it feels as though Samuel L. Jackson has never really been off the screen; he was simply born there, and we’ve been enjoying him ever since. Trawling through his entries on One Room With A View is exhausting enough, considering he’s recently taken turns in everything from Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq to teeny-bop spy flick Barely Lethal. His latest, buddy comedy caper The Hitman’s Bodyguard, is another step sideways in a career which has spanned decades and driven Jackson to ever-higher heights; but did you know there’s more to Jackson — a strident Civil Rights activist, an ex-social worker, a Bachelor of Arts in Drama? No?
Well then, sit your ass down, take this quiz, and see what else you think you know (or don’t know) about the man himself…
Jackson's debut film is considered lost and has no known copies in circulation. But what was it?
Jackson got his first film credit in Together for Days, a 1972 independent blaxploitation film about a romance between an African-American man and a Caucasian woman. Appearing on The Jay Leno Show in 2010, Jackson joked that he was glad no one could find a copy.
Jackson eventually studied drama at his alma mater, Morehouse College. But which scientific subject did he major in first?
Jackson’s first major at college was marine biology, followed by architecture; but when he took a public speaking class and appeared in a college production of The Threepenny Opera, he switched his major to drama, and the rest is history.
There’s no arguing that Jackson’s breakout role was Jules Winnfield, the Bible-quoting, Royale-with-Cheese-loving mob employee in 1994’s Pulp Fiction. But how old was Jackson when he took the role?
Jackson already had 30 film credits, including Jurassic Park and Goodfellas, before he appeared in what arguably remains his most famous role at the age of 46. It was Jules’ love for the Bible verse Ezekiel 25:17 that really stuck, and in 2004 his grandest Ezekiel monologue was voted the fourth greatest movie speech of all time.
Jackson followed Pulp Fiction with a role in one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises, starring opposite Bruce Willis in 1995’s Die Hard with a Vengeance. But how many films have Jackson and Willis starred in together?
Jackson and Willis first appeared together in 1993’s cop spoof Loaded Weapon 1, with Willis in an uncredited cameo as John McClane, the character Jackson would eventually star with in Die Hard with a Vengeance. They last topped the bill together in 2000’s M. Night Shyamalan film Unbreakable, which was their fourth collaboration.
It’s no secret that everyone loves sharks and dinosaurs, but is it true that Jackson has played characters who are killed by both?
(Oi! Spoilers!) Jackson’s first brush with creature-based death was Jurassic Park, where he was killed by a velociraptor (and poor Laura Dern discovered his severed arm). His second grisly end came a decade later in Deep Blue Sea, with the deadly jaws of a shark interrupting his dramatic monologue and killing off the biggest star halfway through the film.
Jackson joined the Star Wars universe for its (debatable) prequels, and insisted his character Mace Windu had a uniquely coloured lightsaber. What colour did he ask for?
Despite George Lucas explaining there was no such thing as a purple lightsaber, Jackson insisted on the unique colour because he wanted his character to stand out in battle scenes. Windu had been culled from the original trilogy, but was brought back for the prequels.
Thanks to its title, Snakes on a Plane was destined to be a cult classic before filming even started, but it was nearly changed halfway through production. What was the film almost called?
When New Line suggested changing the title to the more sedate Pacific Air Flight 121, Jackson put his foot down. “That's the only reason I took the job,” Jackson said. “I read the title." Originally called Venom, the working title Snakes on a Plane stuck (save for the above-mentioned momentary lapse of judgement) and ultimately led to the film’s rise from minor release to cult classic, helped along by Jackson’s most (in)famous line: “I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!"
Jackson has spent most of the last decade sweeping around the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a long coat and an eye patch, but he’s not the only man to play Nick Fury on screen. Who took the role first?
Marvel made a few attempts at bringing their comics to life before the success of 2008’s Iron Man, with David Hasselhoff starring in 1998’s direct-to-TV movie Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. In 2002 the character was rebranded for the updated Ultimate universe and Jackson gave permission for Marvel to use his likeness. Four years later, he brought it to life with an uncredited role in Iron Man, and has appeared seven times so far, with 2018’s Captain Marvel next on the horizon.