The Many Bookish Roles of Samuel L. Jackson

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

This summer, movie theatres will be filled with big budget blockbusters and The Legend of Tarzan – based on the novel Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs – is no exception. Samuel L. Jackson plays George Washington Williams, a historic American Civil War soldier and the activist responsible for spurring public outcry against King Leopold II’s Congo Free State. In honor of this movie’s bookish origins, we’re celebrating our absolute favorite literary roles of Samuel L. Jackson. 

Ragtime (1981)

In 1981, E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, a historical fiction novel about New York at the turn of the 20th century, was released as a feature film, garnering eight Oscar nominations. A young Samuel L. Jackson played Gang Member #2, fighting with Coalhouse Walker, Jr., against racial injustice.


Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1987)

In 1987, Samuel L. Jackson played George Harris in a made for television adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe wrote George as a slave with predominantly white ancestry, partially because she wanted to give George a narrative where it would be easier for him to escape slavery than some of the other characters and partially because Stowe believed that Anglo-Saxon blood is directly linked to a predisposition to an aggressive nature and adventurous spirit.  


Jurassic Park (1993)

This 1993 science fiction film about genetically engineered dinosaurs running amok was in the works before Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name was even published. And who could forget chain smoking Ray Arnold? Portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, Jurassic Park’s chief engineer made the phrase “Hold onto your butts” famous and was – twenty-three year old spoiler alert – killed by a velociraptor in both the novel and the film.


Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013 – 2014), and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Samuel L. Jackson signed a nine-picture deal to play Nick Fury in the Marvel cinematic universe, starting with Iron Man in 2008. Created by writer/artist Jack Kirby and writer Stan Lee, Nick Fury first appeared in 1963 in the comic Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos where Fury was portrayed as the cigar-chomping leader of an elite US Army unit. Fury as we know him today first appeared a few months later in the comic Fantastic Four. In that iteration, the character was initially a CIA agent, later becoming the leader of the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

This one’s our favorite, but we’re a little biased. Set to open in September, Samuel L. Jackson plays a threat to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in the film adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ novel of the same name. Barron does not appear in the book, but if the trailer is any indication, he’ll definitely be making a name for himself.