Prolific actor Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in nearly two hundred movies, and despite having more than a few critically acclaimed roles to tout, he has only been nominated for an Oscar once — and lost.
In 1995 Jackson was nominated for best supporting actor for his performance alongside John Travolta in director Quentin Tarantino’s cult classic “Pulp Fiction.” Martin Landau would ultimately take home the coveted Golden statuette, while Jackson’s character Jules Winnfield has become the source of social media infamy with memes, gifs, and even T-shirts.
Since then Jackson has played a slew of characters, ranging from a hated deranged cop in “Lakeview Terrace,” to the smooth private detective Shaft, and, most recently, 91-year-old dementia-stricken Ptolemy Grey.
“I’ve played characters that I know people aren’t supposed to like, and enjoyed it, like Stephen in ‘Django [Unchained],’ said Jackson in conversation with actress Viola Davis for Variety’s “Actor on Actor” series. “That’s my job, to make you uncomfortable. People go, ‘My God.’ And that’s satisfying for us,” he added.
Oddly enough, Jackson’s portrayal as the wicked, scowling house slave may have made him “the most hated negro in cinematic history.” But Jackson didn’t care. In fact, the “Shaft” actor believes the role was his best chance at being a contender for another Oscar.
“‘Django’ was probably my best shot, because it’s the most evil character I’ve ever played, and they generally reward Black people for playing horrendous s—t,” said Jackson to the Los Angeles Times.
But Marvel’s Nick Fury isn’t harping on being snubbed of celebration for his roles at the grand awards ceremony. “As jaded as I wanted to be about it, you know thinking, ‘Well, I should have won an Oscar for this or should have won for that and it didn’t happen,’ once I got over it many years ago, it wasn’t a big deal for me,” he said.
Instead, he makes the most out of attending the annual event. “I always look forward to getting a gift basket for being a presenter. I give stuff to my relatives; my daughter and my wife would take stuff out. It’s cool … but otherwise, I was past it.”
This year, however, Jackson was the recipient of his first Oscar, an honorary one at that, for his lifetime body of work. Finally holding a statuette of his own hasn’t shifted Jackson’s approach to films. He’s still just as focused as ever on making great movies, not just films to appease critics.
“I was never going to let the Oscars be a measure of my success or failure as an actor. My yardstick of success is my happiness: Am I satisfied with what I’m doing? I’m not doing statue-chasing movies. You know [whispers]: ‘If you do this movie, you’ll win an Oscar.’ No thanks. I’d rather be Nick Fury. Or having fun being Mace Windu with a lightsaber in my hand.”