Samuel-L Jackson

  1. Tim Roth, Reservoir Dogs,  1991.
  2. Randy Brooks,  Reservoir Dogs, 1991.
  3. Delroy Lindo, Malcolm X, 1992.    Producer Marvin Worth spent 25 years trying to make a film of Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X – a friend during their teen years in New York.  Scenarists ranged from James Baldwin (with the once blacklisted Arnold Perl) to  Charles Fuller and David Mamet – but  always aimed at white directors (Norman Jewison Sidney Lumet, Oliver Stone) until it was made by the inevjtable  Spike Lee.  Who originally wanted Sam as West Indian Archie, the Harem gangster who took the young Malcolm Little under his wing. Spike Lee’s first choice was Jackson – celebrating winning the first ever Cannes festival supporting actor award by dealing with a lot of sudden Hollywood interest. “I could understand,” said Lee.
  4. Ving Rhamesl, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
  5. Christopher Walken, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
  6. Eric Stoltz, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
  7. Dennis Leary, Judgment Night, 1993.     First choices are not always available…. Back in the early days, Jackson befriended many other up-and-coming actors in New York – Morgan Freeman, Wesley Snipes, Denzel Washington – but refused to follow them to LA until he was “called for.” He would occasionally play small roles in films or TV shows shot on the east coast, and spent a year as Bill Cosby’s stand-in on The Cosby Show. Finally, Jackson got his call to come out to LA, for Roger Donaldson’s White Sands, 1992.
  8. Delroy Lindo, Clockers, 1995.       For Spike Lee, again  – produced, this time,  by Martin Scorsese. “He never came to the set.”
  9. Dennis Hopper, Waterworld, 1994.   “I was trying to go to Hawaii so I could play golf,” admitted Sam. Dennis enjoyed the afternoon tees instead (having beaten Jackson,  Gary Busey, James Caan, Laurence Fishburne,  Gary Oldman to Deacon).  Sam The Wham starred in the same director Kevin Reynolds’ next movie, One Eight Seven, 1997.
  10. Laurence Fishburne, Higher Learning, 1994.     All-the-rage new director John Singleton called Sam when Sidney Poitier proved impossible to land. The producers preferred the father figure from Singleton’s 1991 debut, Boyz n the Hood. Fishburne shot his scenes on days off from Bad Company with Ellen Barkin. 
  11. Michael Jai White, Spawn, 1996. All the obvious heavyweights – Cuba Gooding Jr, Will Smith, Wesley Snipes, Tony Todd (Candyman), Denzel Washington  and Tarantino favourites Samuel L Jackson, Ving Rhames – were seen for the movies’ first black superhero. (The later filmed Black Pantherwas born first, in a 1966 comic – 26 yearsbefore Spawn).  Plus the usual rappers LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur. And the inevitable unknown: Allen Payne, from New Jack City (with Snipes).  Not easy, said White, to win audience sympathy for “the most tragic character I’ve encountered,” a government assassin back from hell. Hence, Spawn 2and Spawn 3: The Ultimate Battle never battled.
  12. Don Cheadle, Boogie Nights, 1997.  For director Paul Thomas Anderson’s exploration of the 70s porno biz as a family unit (Burt Reynolds’ film-maker and Julianne Moore’s porno star being “the parents”), Sam was offered the role of Buck Swope – a nod and a wink to  Putney Swope, a 1968 satire by a certain Robert Downey Sr. Iron Man’sfather.  He played Burt in this film with the credit: Robert Downey Sr A Prince.
  13. Denzel  Washington, The Hurricane, 1998.   “Hate got me in here. But love’s gonna bust me out.”  New Jersey boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter on being framed for three murders  and  losing  19 years of his life because of racism, corruption, said critic Roger Ebert, “and – perhaps most wounding- indifference.”  Jackson and Wesley Snipes battled for the role, but no one could hope to match the power of Washington – one of his finest achievements.  Jackson also lost Training Day, 2001, to Washington and his second Oscar.
  14. Chris Rock, Dogma, 1999.    Said Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers: Thou shalt not stop laughing. For another of his askew views of the world, New Jersey (over) writer director Kevin Smith talked with Jackson and Will Smith about Rufus.  But Rock rolled.
  15. Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix, 1999. Everyone passed on Morpheus… Jackson, Yun-Fat Chow, Russell Crowe, Gary Oldman. Only Fishburne saw the potential. Far from financial at the time. Hoswever, he was moere preoccupied with Mace Windu in a little something called Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.  If Will Smith  had accepted the hero, Neo, he said Val Kilmer would have been Morpheus. “In short, one leading black man is OK – not two!”

  16. Denzel Washington, Training Day, 2001.    In another life, as  planned by David Guggenheim, Sam was set as bad cop Alzono opposite Matt Damon’s rookie.
  17. Bill Duke, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, 2005.    Irish director Jim Sheridan’s offer was spurnedby Sam because he did not feel that rapper 50 Cent (aka Curtis Jackson) should star in any Sheridan film. The following year, Sam co-starred with 50 Cent in Home of the Brave.
  18. Jamie Foxx, Miami Vice, 2005.    Although the TV  show’s creator Michael Mann considered the obvious big A Listers for Detective Ricardo Tubbs – Jackson, Will Smith, Denzel Washington – it was obvious that Foxx would get the smart threads gig. He it was, after  all, who suggested the movie version to Mann in the first place. He just didn’t think it would be oh so serious…
  19. Sam Elliott, The Golden Compass, 2006.    Tolkienesque author Philip Pullman wanted Jason Isaacs for Lord Asriel, Nicole Kikdman as Mrs Coulter, Jackson as Lee Scoresby. Pullman was over-ruled by each new director from Ridley Scott to, finally,Chris Weitz, except regarding Kidman. She remained the #1 choice since 1996. Chicago critic Roger Ebert said that as the cowboy-turned-pilot, Elliott’s moustache “was never more formidable.”
  20. Laz Alonso, Miracle At St Anna, 2007.    Had to pass on Spike Lee’s inviteto play the Puerto Rican Corporal Hector Negron – ashe was booked as a copin Lakeview Terrace – which is where Rodney King was beaten upby LAPD cops in 1991. 
  21. Laurence Fishburne, Black Water Transit, 2007.     Bruce Willis planned to headline and produce in 2005, with pal Samuel Bayer debuting as director. The project passed to Vin Diesel in May 2006, Willis got it back in November for him and Jackson Once Bayer was replaced by Tony Kaye in February 2007, they split. Neither one was among the final eighteen producers. But Fishburne was.
  22. Karl Urban, Black Water Transit, 2007.     As I was saying… When Bruce Willis tried make the non- thriller in 2006, he called his Die Hard 4 mate to join him. When Willis split, Sam was offered the Willis role of Earl Pike… finally cranked out by Urban. The result was never seen in any cinema since its market screening (ie looking for buyers) at the 2009 Cannes festival. Transit transferred direct to video.
  23. John Goodman, Red State, 2010.   Goodman came to the rescue when auteur Kevin Smith’s first choices – Jackson and Alan Rickman – were too busy to be federal agent Keenan in this askew spin on The Wicker Man. 1973. Smith’s 16th film had the usual mix of sex, religion and politics. Except this was more Waco than whacko. Or as he put it “a nasty-ass $4mil horror flick with few (if any) redeeming characters.” Shot in sequence over 25 days Smith edited by night and was able to screen the first cut at the wrap party. Beat that, Spielberg!
  24. Terrence Howard, Red Tails, 2011.    The all-powerful George Lucas had to drop close to $100m into the budget before any studio would help back his 23-year-old dream film about the Tuskegee Airmen  WWII’s barely heard of African-American fighter pilots. So good, they shot down the first jet fighters, Messerschmitt Me 262s! Sam had talks with George about leading the cast and helming the movie.  Lucas did a little of that, himself, assisting his chosen director Anthony Hemingway. Howard had also been a Tuskegee in Hart’s War, 2001.
  25. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant, 2015.   Five years earlier, Christian Bale had been set for backwoodsman Hugh Glass – seeking vengeance after being left for dead by his companions after a bear attack. He left when director John Hillcoat quit in October 2010. The French Jean-François Richet loomed large for awhile. Then, South Korean Chan-wook Park tried to tackle with it Jackson before Mexico’s mighty Alejandro G Iñárritu took over – and he and DiCaprio won Oscars (Iñárritu’s second in a row, Leo’s first) on February 29, 2016.
  26. Eddie Murphy, Mr Church, 2016. Ten years in the… kitchen!   Jackson had an option for five. When he was available, the right director was not and vice-versa. Not to mention raising a budget. After three more years on the shelf, it reached Murphy who hadn’t found a movie to make in four years. “I can’t imagine anyone else in this role,” said scenarist Susan McMartin. “And he resembles the real Mr. Church.” She was four when a cook named Church started helping her dying mother – a six month stint lasting 15 years. “He was like my father figure.… my best friend… the reason I became a writer… the reason I survived childhood. He was everything to me.”
  27. Robert Downey, Jr, Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2016. The role was the same – mentor to the new Spidey, Tom Holland.  Only the character was changed from  Nick Fury to Tony Stark – from Sam The Wham to Downey The Man.  Jackson, busiest star in the Marvelverse, got the mentor gig in Holland’s third appearance, Spider-Man: Far From Home,   2018. Scoreline: Downey 8, Jackson 11. 

Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  26