Samuel L. Jackson
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 have one daughter together. He's also an avid golfer and has played in several charity tournaments.
- 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.