Samuel L. Jackson: Embracing Star Wisdom to Overcome Frustration with Hollywood

Samuel L. Jackson: Embracing Star Wisdom to Overcome Frustration with Hollywood

Samuel L. Jackson Reflects on Oscar Loss and Changing Perspective

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 13: Samuel L. Jackson attends Marvel Studios’ ‘Secret Invasion’ Launch Event at El Capitan Theater on June 13, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/WireImage)

Samuel L. Jackson may be one of the most active and in-demand actors in Hollywood, but until a few years ago, he was still carrying a thorn that stuck in him one night in 1995. That evening was one of the Oscar nominees in the Best Supporting Actor category. And he had a chance to win.

His work in Violent Times (Pulp Fiction) was being applauded by the public, the industry, and critics. The film had won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was sweeping the box office. But it couldn’t be and, since then, he never hid his frustration from him… Until now.

Because at 74 years old, he has decided to turn the page by practicing the wisdom of an experienced star.

A Memorable Oscar Moment

When Anna Paquin proclaimed Martin Landau’s name the winner (he won it for Ed Wood), Samuel L. Jackson had the most spontaneous reaction in the history of the Oscar. The most human of all. Because he did not appear to be happy for his professional partner, nor did he pretend to contain disappointment for the cameras as the vast majority do. On the contrary, he did not hide his frustration from him and visibly upset exclaimed his famous ‘shit!’ (f*ck) he saw it all over the world. His face was in the foreground, captured on the giant screens of the ceremony. And without planning it, in just a second, he hung the label of ‘sore loser’ that still turns him into a meme every time he loses at a ceremony (as happened a few days ago at the Tony Awards).

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“I should have won it,” he told The Times in February 2022 when recalling his defeat for a film that, over time, has gained the status of a classic of the seventh art. And it is that, inside him, his frustration with the Academy had roots that had begun to grow in 1991 when he was not nominated for Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. The film had been a personal challenge for the actor, having thrown himself into playing an addict when he himself had just completed his stint in rehab. His work was so cathartic and overwhelming that the Cannes Film Festival jury added a special award for Best Supporting Actor just to celebrate. But the Academy either didn’t see it, or didn’t want to see it, surprising Samuel L. Jackson when he discovered that two Bugsy actors had made the cut on him (Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley).

“My wife and I went to see ‘Bugsy’,” he explained. “Damn! They were nominated and not me? I guess blacks usually win by doing despicable things on screen. Like Denzel [Washington] for being a horrible cop in Training Day. And all the great things he did in inspiring roles like Malcolm X? No, we’ll give it to this son of a bitch. So maybe I should have won one.”

Anyway, he also recognized the value of his career by ensuring that “the Oscars do not move the comma on your check.” That, in reality, the business is based on attracting the public to the halls, and he had more than achieved it throughout his career, but it was clear that, from the time he lost the award in 1995 until the aforementioned interview in 2022, Samuel L. Jackson carried the frustrated conviction that that award should have been his (and, honestly, I agree with him). That the Academy did not appreciate or take into account the varied dramatic works of black actors as part of the underlying inequality.

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A Change in Perspective

But then Samuel L. Jackson changed his rhetoric. And it is wonderful. The actor is promoting the premiere of Secret Invasion, the new Marvel series where he plays Nick Fury again, and in an interview with the Los Angeles Times he explained his change of perspective.

“Despite how upset I would like to be thinking, ‘I should have won an Oscar for this or I should have won for that and it didn’t happen,’ once I got over it many years ago, it wasn’t a big deal to me,” he said. “I always have fun going to the Oscars. I always look forward to receiving the gift basket for being a presenter. But otherwise, I’m over it.”

“I would never let the Oscars be a measure of my success or failure as an actor. My criteria for success is my happiness: Am I satisfied with what I am doing? I’m not making movies to win statuettes. You know, ‘If you make 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 hand,” he said loud and clear.

And I love his reaction. Perhaps his change of perspective is linked to the honorary Oscar that the Academy awarded him in 2022, with which they recognized his status as a “cultural icon” through a filmography that had “resonated across genres, generations, and audiences around the world.” Because, in the end, that’s what it’s all about.

A Legendary Career

Samuel L. Jackson knew cinematographic failure and success after going through all kinds of genres and feature films. And just as we saw him in award-winning productions, he also entertained us with productions designed for the elusive spectacle, being stalked by dinosaurs, sharks, and snakes, as a cartoonish villain or unexpected hero. And so, between one thing and another, he settled as a legendary figure in successful sagas such as Star Wars and Marvel, crowning himself as the second highest-grossing performer in history.

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The figure is scandalous: his films in general have accumulated more than 27 billion dollars. Who tops it? Stan Lee, for all his cameos in Marvel movies.

And so, with the experience gained and the constant support of the public, Samuel L. Jackson was able to appreciate that his career does not need an Oscar to be appreciated, valued, and elevated to the highest. That at 74 years old, he is still at the top after having opted to entertain the audience, to participate in projects that motivate us to go to the movies. That, in the end, it is about his life and his work, and the important thing is to dedicate himself to what fills him inside. Let it make you feel satisfied. And in the end, after years of being upset with that lost Oscar, the actor would have learned to recognize that the measure of his success or failure does not lie in winning a golden statuette. Rather, like all mortals, the measure of our success lies in the happiness of achieving our own goals. And Samuel L. Jackson has more than achieved them.

This article was written exclusively for in Spanish by Cine54.

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