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His Early Aspirations
Widely recognized as one of Hollywood’s toughest, smoothest and most iconic living actors, Samuel L Jackson did not always fit this flattering description. After committing himself to the American civil rights movement in the late 1960s and studying public speaking at Morehouse College in the early 1970s, Jackson moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. It was there that he first developed a serious dependency on alcohol and cocaine.
As Samuel L Jackson began to move beyond the theater world with small roles in films such as Do the Right Thing and Goodfellas, his problems with drugs and alcohol only worsened. He began to use heroin at this time and suffered multiple overdoses.
An Out of Control Addiction
By the age of 41, Jackson had yet to achieve a breakthrough performance on stage or in film. He had managed to beat his heroin addiction, but was still regularly abusing alcohol, marijuana and crack cocaine. After a particularly destructive binge, Jackson was mortified when his wife and eight-year-old daughter came home to find him lying unconscious on the floor with a large amount of cocaine sprawled on the table.
When his addition finally became too much to bear, Samuel L Jackson’s family finally checked him into a New York-area rehab clinic. “I didn’t resist,” Jackson recalls, “because I was ready.”
When he emerged from his drug addiction treatment, he was a changed man. Clean and sober, Jackson was finally offered the breakthrough role that had eluded him for his entire career. Just two weeks after completing rehab, he was signed to play the part of Gator Purify in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever.
Ironically, the performance that ultimately put Samuel L Jackson on the map would be a harrowing portrayal of a charismatic but precarious crack addict. Jackson looked upon the role as a cathartic extension of his rehabilitation. “It was a funny kind of thing,” he said. “By the time I was out of rehab…I was on set and we were ready to start shooting.”
A New Successful Career
Samuel L Jackson would go on to star in a string of successful films including Patriot Games, True Romance and Jurassic Park. Then, in 1994, he would suddenly be catapulted into superstardom after his Academy Award-nominated turn in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
Jackson has been sober, happy and working steadily ever since. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife LaTanya Richardson. Together, they have established their own educational charity to help young people avoid making the same life mistakes that Jackson has made.
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