Samuel L. Jackson's Journey from Addiction to Box Office Superstar

By David Konow 07/08/16

"It was just that one thing that was in the way – my addiction. And once that was out of the way, it was – boom! The door blew wide open.”

Samuel L. Jackson's Journey from Addiction to Box Office Superstar

While promoting his latest performance in The Legend of Tarzan, Samuel L. Jackson spoke to the Huffington Post about hitting bottom with his addiction, getting sober, and finally breaking through in his mid-forties as an actor, eventually becoming the number one box office star in the world.

In fact, it wasn’t long after he got sober that Jackson had a major breakthrough role as Gator, the tragic crackhead brother of Wesley Snipes in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, and, as Jackson told, Lee had sought him out for the role while he was in rehab.

“I have a direct correlation between getting sober and success,” the actor said. “My success directly correlates to me getting straight and me getting in touch with who I am and understanding what my talents were and how to tap into them in a positive way.” And indeed, shortly after his role in Jungle Fever, Jackson finally became a major Hollywood star at the age of 45 from his role as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction.

Jackson first started using in the late '60s, drinking, smoking pot and dropping acid. Jackson told the Guardian that even though he was high, he kept getting work because of his talent. “I was a fucking drug addict and I was out of my mind a lot of the time,” the actor recalled. “But I had a good reputation. Showed up on time, knew my lines, hit my marks.”

Eventually Jackson graduated to crack cocaine, and he told the Huffington Post he hit bottom when his wife and daughter, who was eight years old at the time, found him passed out on the floor of the kitchen, surrounded by his cocaine paraphernalia. “[They] found me passed out on the floor after I left somebody’s bachelor party, put my ass in rehab the next day,” Jackson recalled to the Post.

Before he got sober in 1991, Jackson struggled to get to the next level as an actor, and sobriety clearly removed that stumbling block. “I was doing Pulitzer prize-winning plays,” Jackson told the Guardian. “It was just that one thing that was in the way—my addiction. And once that was out of the way, it was—boom! The door blew wide open.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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