Last year, The Guinness Book of World Records named Samuel L. Jackson the highest-grossing actor of all time. The 63-year-old Washington, D.C. native has starred in over 100 films that have a combined box office gross of almost $8 billion. That’s quite a feat for a man who nearly squandered his talent and life away due to a serious drug and alcohol addiction.
Since starting out in the theater in the ’70s as a student at Morehouse College, Jackson has managed to build an estimated net worth of $150 million by appearing in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, like Captain America and Star Wars and low budget critical hits like Eve’s Bayou. The always earnest, off-the-cuff actor has made a fortune playing stern, authoritative characters. His latest role and box office score was as Nick Fury in The Avengers, which broke domestic box office records, pulling in $200.3 million opening weekend. With the May 18th release of his new neo-noir thriller The Samaritan sure to add more zeros to Jackson’s bank account, BlackEnterprise.com decodes the hardest working actor in Hollywood. —Shydel James
After 15 years doing Off Broadway productions and travelling tours, Jackson landed the part of crack addict Gator Purify in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. The role earned him a Best Supporting Actor award from the Cannes Film Festival, and opened the floodgates to a record-breaking film career. Having built up his cachet in Hollywood with an Oscar nominated turn in the cult classic Pulp Fiction ($212 million), Jackson began working non-stop, averaging four movies a year since 1994, including fail-proof franchises such as Die Hard ($430 million), Jurassic Park ($914 million) and the Star Wars prequel trilogy (over $2 billion). His 2000 remake of Shaft netted Jackson a $10 million payday. That same year, he took home $7 million for his work in M. Night Shyamalan‘s Unbreakable. In 2009, he signed a multi-million dollar deal with Marvel Studios to reprise the role of Nick Fury in nine movies. With The Avengers poised to cross the $1 billion mark and a sequel already in the works, Jackson is likely to achieve a career global box office tally of $10 billion. He also collects $300,000 in residuals every year from his films that air on television.
KING OF THE STAGE
In 2011, Jackson went back to his theatre roots by stepping into the shoes of Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. in a limited engagement of the hit Broadway play, The Mountaintop. The drama, which also starred Oscar nominee Angela Bassett, focuses on a string of fictional events that take place in a motel room the night before King was assassinated. Thanks to Jackson’s movie star drawing power and lauded performance (The New Yorker called his work “admirable, compelling”), the show played to sold out houses, extended its engagement by popular demand, and grossed over $10 million. In fact, with only 24 previews and 117 regular performances, the show managed to recoup its initial investment of $3.1 million, a rare accomplishment for a non-musical Broadway show.
MUST BE THE VOICE
Jackson has a successful side-career as a voice-over actor, playing an array of roles as varied as the ones he portrays on screen. In 2004, he lent his voice to The Incredibles, a big screen computer-animated film about a family of undercover superheroes that went on to gross $631 million and win two Academy Awards. He also graced the small screen in the recurring role of Gin Rummy in the comic strip turned animated series, The Boondocks, and voiced the antagonist in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which is one of the best-selling PlayStation 2 video games of all time.
Jackson recently tapped into the billion-dollar audiobook industry by signing on with “A-List Collection,” an Amazon-owned company that brings classic novels to life. He lent his rich baritone to a darkly humored version of A Rage in Harlem;provided the voice of Godforthe audiobook version of the Bible; and helped the mock bedtime story, Go The F**k to Sleep, become a viral sensation that debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestsellers list.