Samuel L. Jackson Says He’s Never Let the Oscars Determine His Success: ‘Wasn’t a Big Deal’

At this year’s Governor’s Awards, Samuel L. Jackson received an honorary Oscar from Denzel Washington. The two actors go way back from their early theatre days in New York. After the actor won the Oscar, he started to speak but ran over to Denzel to give him a bear hug. During an interview, the Los Angeles Times asked if Jackson was surprised by the emotion of that evening.

“Maybe a little bit. As jaded as I wanted to be about it, you know thinking, ‘Well, I should have won an Oscar for this or should have won for that and it didn’t happen,’ once I got over it many years ago, it wasn’t a big deal for me. I always have fun going to the Oscars. I always look forward to getting a gift basket for being a presenter. [Laughs] I give stuff to my relatives; my daughter and my wife would take stuff out. It’s cool.”

According to Jackson, he was never going to let the Oscars measure his success or failure as an actor. Instead, the yardstick he uses is his happiness. If told that he would win an Oscar if he were to do this movie, the legendary actor would say no thanks. He’d rather be Nick Fury. Or have fun being Mace Windu with a lightsaber. But are there any “status-chasing movies” he regrets passing on?

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“No. I want to do the stuff that made me want to go to the movies when I was a kid. I want to do that movie that people just want to see so they can get out of themselves. That’s the guy I chose to be and I’m fine with it. I’m satisfied because that’s who I am. I’m the guy who does the lines that people see on T-shirts. There are actors who go their whole careers, and no one can quote a line they’ve said in a movie. People go to watch my movies to see how crazy I’m going to be or see how many times I say motherf—. [Laughs] Whatever gets them in the seats.”

At one point, the subject of the interview turned toward Jackson’s work with Quentin Tarantino. Jackson has appeared in six of the director’s nine films, either in person or in voiceover, the latter of which he provided for Inglorious Bastards. And yet, out of all his roles, he’s only ever been nominated for Jules in Pulp Fiction.

“Everything I’ve done for Quentin has a moment that’s given me an opportunity, from Jackie Brown to The Hateful Eight to Django [Unchained]. Django was probably my best shot because it’s the most evil character I’ve ever played and they generally reward Black people for playing horrendous s—. [Laughs]”

Samuel L. Jackson on the 2022 Oscars

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Two days after receiving his lifetime achievement award, Jackson had a Pulp Fiction Reunion with Uma Thurman and John Travolta. On the same night, Jackson handed Will Smith the Oscar for Best Actor. When asked about the evening, after “the big incident happened,” Jackson’s response was ‘whoa’ while his wife asked if that was a bit. (“No, Will just slapped the s— out of Chris.”)

“So that happened, and they came and got me. I kind of saw Quest[love] ’s speech, which nobody was listening to because everybody was trying to figure out what the f— just happened. And I went backstage and saw Chris against the wall. ‘You OK?’ ‘Yeah.’ And so I get to Uma and John, and John says, ‘So … can we rehearse?’ I’m like, ‘You know what just happened?’ He’s like, ‘What?’ He was backstage not looking at the monitor, looking at his lines because that’s who John is. So we rehearsed, Uma and John danced, and we were kind of oblivious to what was going on.”

However, Jackson stated that he didn’t really care about adding to the historical record of what happened backstage that night. Instead, he still feels a little ticked that “the greatest actor we had in Hollywood died,” and the Academy gave him “10 f— seconds.” According to Jackson, there should have been a whole section on Sidney Poitier.

“The reason Will Packer is producing this show is because of this guy. The reason Will Smith won an Oscar is because of this guy. The reason for Denzel, the reason for me, the reason for Danny [Glover], the reason for everybody is that guy, and he deserves more than 10 f— seconds of your time, especially for what he meant, not just to us, but to Hollywood period. He gave dignity to Hollywood. He was Hollywood f— royalty. And he did not get what he deserved out of that f— show.”

When the LA Times interview stated that he would have preferred that over the Twitter fan-favorite movie, Jackson responded by saying that it’s not wrong for skateboards and snowboards to be presenting the Academy Awards. At the same time, they have their show. It’s called the ESPYs, and they should go do that.

“This is the night Hollywood celebrates f— Hollywood. That thing that we used to have when I was young, watching it and wondering, “What am I going to say when I get mine” was the glamor of it all, the extravagance, the mystique that is Hollywood. Some of that’s gone. You’ve got movie stars who are influencers or people who live out loud, so you know way more about them than you used to know. But it should still be a celebration that you did something that’s great. Like I still say, there should be an award for the movie that made the most money.”

When asked if the box office is rewarding enough and that the Oscars should celebrate cinema, Jackson responded, “This is cinema.” That is what people go into the theatre for–to be entertained. That’s what they’re celebrating. The best actor or best actress award is just a popularity contest.

“Or so I heard way back when Martin Landau got the award [for Ed Wood] and I didn’t. [Whispers] ‘C’mon, Sam. Martin’s been nominated so many times. Don’t worry. Your time is coming.’ Excuse me? I didn’t know that’s how it worked. I thought it was the acting performance that made the most impact.”