An explosive and prolific actor who didn’t become a household name until after age 40, Jackson started out on stage in the 1970s, working with the acclaimed Negro Ensemble Company and New York Shakespeare Festival and occasionally booking bit parts in TV shows and films. During the 1980s he began a fruitful relationship with director Spike Lee, who gave him small but memorable roles in School Daze, Do the Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues. But it was Jackson’s harrowing turn as a crack addict in Lee’s 1991 flick Jungle Fever that finally got him noticed—ironic considering the troubled actor had kicked his drug habit the year before. Subsequently, he effortlessly moved from comedies (Amos & Andrew) to action flicks (Jurassic Park ) to dramas (Fresh) and earned an Oscar nod for his flashy turn as a Bible-quoting, fast-food-chain-analyzing hit man in 1994’s Pulp Fiction. Around this time, Jackson began appearing in a staggering number of projects, with varying degrees of success, including the xXx and Star Wars franchises. His unique attitude and style had already made him a pop-culture icon, but Jackson took his status to new heights with the instant cult hit Snakes on a Plane (2006), which he reportedly signed on for based on the title alone. In 2008 he made an uncredited appearance as Ultimate Nick Fury, a comic-book character who was based on his likeness, in the hit Iron Man. The appearance set the groundwork for a 2009 deal with Marvel in which he signed on to portray Fury for nine potential films. Off-screen, Jackson has been married to actress LaTanya Richardson since 1980, and the pair has one daughter together. He’s also an avid golfer and has played in several charity tournaments.
• The first commercial was for a Southern fast-food chain, Krystal Hamburgers.
• Stuttered as a child; followed a speech therapist’s advice to audition for a play, a decision that set him on his career path.
• While attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, was temporarily expelled during his junior year for participating in a civil-rights campaign protesting the lack of black-studies programs.
• While a struggling actor was a doorman at the renowned Manhattan Plaza New York City apartment complex.
• Spent two years as Bill Cosby’s stand-in for The Cosby Show.
• Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in June 2000, and placed his handprints and footprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in January 2006.
• Was the commencement speaker for his daughter Zoe’s 2004 graduation from Vassar College.
• Provided the voice of God in a 2006 audiobook of the Bible’s New Testament.
• Signed a nine-picture deal with Marvel in 2009.
• 1998, Berlin Film Festival — Silver Bear for Best Actor: Winner
• 1997, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Nominee
• 1994, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Nominee
• 2011, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Supporting Male: Nominee
• 1995, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television: Nominee
• 1998, Independent Spirit Awards — Best First Feature under $500,000: Winner
• 1998, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy: Nominee
• 1995, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Nominee
• 1995, BAFTA Film Awards — Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Winner
• 1998, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Supporting Male: Nominee
• 1994, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role: Nominee
• 2009, Emmy — Outstanding Animated Program (for programming one hour or more): Nominee
• 1995, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Male Lead: Winner
• 1991, Cannes Film Festival — Best Supporting Actor: Winner
• Edna — Aunt
• LaTanya Richardson — Wife
• Zoe Jackson — Daughter
• Elizabeth Jackson — Mother
• Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia, United States (BA in Drama, 1972)
1 “I hope Obama gets scary in the next four years, ‘cuz he ain’t gotta worry about getting re-elected.”
2 “I voted for Barack because he was black. ‘Cuz that’s why other folks vote for other people – because they look like them… That’s American politics, pure and simple.”
3 “Not everybody goes to movies to get their life changed.”
4 “All movies aren’t fun; some are hard work. You try to do something and convey a set of emotions that have to do with some real life kind of stuff.”
5 “I actually think I have an audience member’s sensibility about going to the movies.”
6 “ People like the Ezekiel speech. I have to say that speech about three times a week to people,
just to prove that I still know it.
7 “Hamburgers: the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.”
8 “Those who say that money can’t buy happiness, never had any.”
9 “I get paid all day, every day, which is almost too much for a sensitive artist.”
10 “I don’t mind dying, I just don’t wanna go out like some punk.”