Samuel L. Jackson's Life and Career in Photos

With more than 100 films under his belt, the venerated actor has led an illustrious, 50-year career

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Samuel L. Jackson's New York City Beginnings

Samuel L. Jackson
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Samuel Leroy Jackson was born on Dec. 21, 1948, in Washington, D.C. He came to New York City in October 1976 and joined the theater, where he paid his dues alongside future stars Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes. After small appearances in classic films Coming to America (1988), Do the Right Thing (1989) and Goodfellas (1990), Jackson broke into Hollywood for good playing Gator Purify in director Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991).

Since then, the star has been outworking new and veteran actors, racking up more than 100 film credits, doing voiceover work, hosting and starring in Capital One commercials with the famous tagline: "What's in your wallet?" No role has been too big or too small for Jackson, who has become a mainstay in Hollywood's biggest blockbuster franchises, including Star Wars, The Incredibles and the Marvel Cinematic Universe — just to name a few.

02 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson Marries Actress LaTanya Richardson

Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson/Instagram

Jackson and actress LaTanya Richardson first met in Atlanta in the '60s when Jackson was a student at Morehouse College and Richardson was a student at Spelman College. The two got married in 1980 and welcomed their daughter Zoe, now 40, two years later.

In 2019, Jackson celebrated the couple's 39th anniversary by sharing photos on Instagram with a sweet tribute to his wife.

"Happy Anniversary @ltjackson_ ‼️You're my Rock & reason to get up every day work on giving you the best I have to offer," he wrote. "Thanks for All you Are! You are Love, walking , talking, challenging & everlasting! I Love You with all that I am😍💥💐‼️#ifitwaseasyerrrbodycoulddoit #itsallbeenworthit"

03 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson Open Up About Their 41-Year Marriage

Samuel L Jackson & LaTanya Richardson
Matt Sayles/@msayles

In a recent issue of PEOPLE, the couple sat down for an intimate interview to discuss their love and life now.

"In the beginning, we always said the most revolutionary thing that Black people could do was stay together, raise their children with the nucleus of having a father and a mother, since everybody likes to pretend that that's not the dynamic of the African American family. That it's just children out here being raised by women, which we know is false," said LaTanya. "In order to change that narrative, we made a decision to say, 'We are going to stay together no matter what. We'll figure it out.'"

04 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson Earns an Oscar Nomination for Pulp Fiction

John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson
John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction (1994). Miramax/Buena Vista/Kobal/Shutterstock

In 1994, after appearing in hit films Menace II Society (1993) and Jurassic Park (1993), Jackson played iconic character Jules Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. The film exploded onto the awards circuit, where it earned seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.

Jackson earned his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Costars John Travolta and Uma Thurman were nominated for Best Actor and Actress, Tarantino earned a nom for Best Director and won an Oscar for Best Screenplay with writing partner Roger Avary.

05 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson at the Deep Blue Sea Premiere

Samuel L. Jackson
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Jackson joined costars LL Cool J, his wife Simone Smith, Renny Harlin, Thomas Jane and Saffron Burrows on the Deep Blue Sea premiere red carpet in Westwood, California, in 1999.

06 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson Receives a Star on the Walk of Fame

Samuel L. Jackson

Surrounded by family — daughter Zoe, wife LaTanya Richardson and mother Elizabeth Jackson — the actor got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on June 16, 2000.

07 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson Attends the Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones Premiere

Samuel L. Jackson
Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

With Darth Vader by his side, the star posed on the Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones charity premiere red carpet in L.A. in 2002. Jackson has played Jedi Master Mace Windu in the Star Wars franchise.

08 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson Attends the S.W.A.T. World Premiere

Samuel L. Jackson
Kevin Winter/Getty

In Westwood, California, Jackson and costars Jeremy Renner, Olivier Martinez, LL Cool J, Michelle Rodriguez and Colin Farrell stopped to take a cast photo at the 2003 S.W.A.T. world premiere at the Mann Village Theatre.

09 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson and the Coach Carter Cast Pose at the Premiere

Samuel L. Jackson
Kevin Winter/Getty

In 2005, the cast of Coach Carter — including Robert Ri'chard, Nana Gbewonyo, Antwon Tanner, Ashanti, Rob Brown amd Rick Gonzalez — joined Jackson on the red carpet at the Chinese Theater in L.A.

10 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson Recieves Career Achievement Award for Acting

Samuel L. Jackson
Amy Graves/WireImage

At the Palm Springs International Film Festival in 2005, the star was honored with the Career Achievement Award for Acting.

11 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Do the Right Thing

Samuel L. Jackson
Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

Joined by Director Spike Lee and Danny Aiello, Jackson attended the 20th anniversary screening of Do the Right Thing at the Directors Guild of America Theater in 2009 in N.Y.C.

12 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson Stars in The Hateful Eight

Andrew Cooper/The Weinstein Company

Jackson was tapped by director Quentin Tarantino once again to play Major Marquis Warren, the movie's bounty hunter, in 2015's The Hateful Eight. He won a Hollywood Film Award, along with the cast, for ensemble of the year.

13 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson Shares Throwback Ahead of Hateful Eight Premiere

Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson/Instagram

To amp up the anticipation for the film, Jackson shared a throwback of his younger self on a horse on Instagram with the caption, "The beginnings of Major Warren! Wait for The H8ful Eight!!"

14 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson in a Selfie with His Kong Costars

Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson/Instagram

The star snapped a selfie with Kong: Skull Island costars Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson as they embarked on their 2016 press tour and wrote on Instagram, "Da 3 Viet Namigos!!! Bout to get our Kong press on."

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Samuel L. Jackson Attends Incredibles 2 U.K. Premiere

Ian West/PA Images/Getty Images

Jackson, who voices Lucius Best a.k.a. Frozone, and costar Holly Hunter, who voices Helen Parr a.k.a. Elastigirl, hit the U.K. Incredibles 2 red carpet in London with the animated stars.

16 of 18

Samuel L. Jackson Hangs with Magic Johnson at Dodgers Stadium

Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson/Instagram

Close friends Jackson and L.A. Lakers legend Magic Johnson hung out with wives LaTanya Richardson and Cookie Johnson at a Dodgers game in 2018.

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Samuel L. Jackson Pays Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson/Instagram

The actor celebrated activist and former South African president Nelson Mandela on what would've been his 100th birthday with a photo of the Jacksons visiting the leader before he died in 2013.

"HAPPY 100THFROM THE JACKSONS‼️🎶🎂👊🏾," he wrote, adding hashtags, #sogladwehadthehonor and #ameetinglikenoother.

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Samuel L. Jackson Receives Honorary Award at the 2022 Oscars

Samuel L. Jackson
Frazer Harrison/Getty

Jackson received his first Oscar at the 12th Governors Awards on March 25, ahead of the 2022 Oscars.

Though he's never won an Oscar, he's the most-nominated Black actor in Academy Awards history, with 10 nods to his name.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented actors Jackson, Elaine May and Liv Ullmann with The Honorary Award, which is awarded to celebrate extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy. Danny Glover received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which lauds individuals whose humanitarian work has credited the larger industry.

"We are thrilled to present this year's Governors Awards to four honorees who have had a profound impact on both film and society," Academy President David Rubin said in a statement, adding that, "Sam Jackson is a cultural icon whose dynamic work has resonated across genres and generations and audiences worldwide."

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