The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Star Wars’ to ‘Shaft’ to ‘Snakes’

Sean Sweany | Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A lifetime of fighting deadly snakes at 35,000 feet, serving as a Jedi Knight and living as a philosophical hit man would be enough for just about anybody – but not Samuel L. Jackson. These are just a few of the roles the hardest working actor in Hollywood has played during his long and famous career, and the 58-year old shows no signs of slowing down.

Since his debut in the 1972 film “Together for Days” as a student at Morehouse College, Jackson has acted in more than 95 movies and currently has no less than six projects in various phases of development. To date, his films have grossed more than $3 billion at the worldwide box office, which is more than any other actor in the history of cinema.

Jackson’s repertoire of films spans the entire spectrum of Hollywood genres, from science fiction to comedy to drama. Some, like “xXx,” “Shaft” and “Sphere,” either received extremely poor reviews or made hardly any money at the box office.

However, roles in films such as “Unbreakable” and “A Time to Kill” demonstrate that Jackson is a legitimate actor who can easily impress critics in his performances. In 1994, Jackson earned an Oscar nomination for playing hitman Jules Winnfield opposite John Travolta in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.”

This summer’s cult hit “Snakes on a Plane” featured one of Jackson’s most spirited and unique performances and brought him and his career into the limelight, thanks to his personal and dedicated marketing of the movie. The surge in popularity has left many people wondering exactly how Jackson has become the most successful actor in Hollywood history.

Jackson’s bread and butter has been his ability to portray stone cold, tough guy characters like Jules Winnfield in “Pulp Fiction” or even indomitable Ray Arnold in the original “Jurassic Park” film. In “Pulp Fiction,” Jackson clearly flourished under Tarantino’s direction and was able to deliver one of the most memorable screen performances of all time.

Success has coupled with critical acclaim when Jackson diverges from his usual path and tries his hand at vulnerable, emotional characters.

Examples include the fragile Elijah Price in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable” and unstable family man Doyle Gipson in the 2002 thriller “Changing Lanes.” Jackson turned in remarkable performances in both of these films that cemented him as one of the most versatile and capable actors in Hollywood.

Considering Jackson’s wide slate of films, it may seem hard to identify the reason for his success. However, one need look no further than his explanation for why he signed on for “Snakes on a Plane” to find out why he has succeeded.

He jumped on board, he said, simply because he loved the title so much.

Jackson’s penchant for making movies that he personally enjoys translates into fun for audiences as much in “Snakes on a Plane” as it ever has before. This simple mantra of making fun films has propelled Jackson to the top of the film world and could keep him there for a long time.

The self dubbed “King of Cool” will undoubtedly continue to make films that appeal to him for a long time to come in the hopes that his films will continue to resonate with theatrical audiences.

It is not unimaginable that “Snakes on a Train” or “Snakes on a Boat” could slither into theaters sometime soon.