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Samuel L. Jackson Felt Robbed of an Oscar After Cuts in ‘A Time to Kill’

Photo Credit: Suhaimi Abdullah / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Suhaimi Abdullah / Getty Images

Samuel L. Jackson is a living icon. The actor has turned several lines in films into pop culture references, including “I have had it with these [expletive] snakes on this [expletive] plane!,” and “Where is my super suit?,” just to name a few. As such a well-known household name, and having performed in some of the greatest films ever produced in Hollywood, you might think he has a couple of Oscar wins under his belt. However, he was only ever nominated once – and he might be just a little bitter about it.

Jackson has only been nominated once

Despite more than 50 years working in the industry, Jackson has only ever been nominated for an Oscar once. He earned the nomination for his performance as Jules Winnfield, the professional hitman in Quentin Tarantino‘s 1994 film Pulp Fiction. While Jackson had been acting for several years before this film, the role served as his Hollywood breakout and really put him on the map.

Samuel L. Jackson pointing a gun.
Samuel L. Jackson’s only Oscar nomination was for his portrayal of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction. (Photo Credit: Miramax Films / bilbo / MovieStillsDB)

He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 1995 Academy Awards, competing against Martin Landau’s role in Ed Wood, Chazz Palminteri’s role in Bullets Over Broadway, Paul Scofield’s role in Quiz Show, and Gary Sinise’s role in Forrest Gump. Sadly for Jackson, the award went to Landau.

Jackson’s feelings about Landau’s win were obvious right from the get-go. When the presenter announced Landau as the winner, Jackson can be seen cussing in response. Later, he would say in an interview, “I should have won that one.”

He felt his performance in A Time to Kill was Oscar-worthy

It wouldn’t be long before Jackson felt like a second chance at a potential Oscar win would be taken from him. This time, it came in the form of Joel Schumacher’s drama, A Time to Kill (1996). He starred alongside Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock, taking on the role of a father sitting on trial after killing two men who assaulted his daughter.

Profile of Samuel L. Jackson, profile of Matthew McConaughey in the background.
Jackson felt all of his best scenes were cut from the film A Time to Kill. (Photo Credit: Warner Bros. / Zayne / MovieStillsDB)

Jackson explained in an interview, “In ‘A Time to Kill,’ when I kill those guys, I kill them because my daughter needs to know that those guys are not on the planet anymore and they will never hurt her again — that I will do anything to protect her.” Unfortunately, a lot of his efforts to make that come across in the film were edited out.

“That’s how I played that character throughout. And there were specific things we shot, things I did to make sure that she understood that, but in the editing process, they got taken out,” Jackson explained. “And it looked like I killed those dudes and then planned every move to make sure that I was going to get away with it. When I saw it, I was sitting there like, ‘What the [expletive]?'”

He feels that the edits robbed him of not just an Academy Award, but even an Oscar nomination. “The things they took out kept me from getting an Oscar. Really, [expletive]? You just took that [expletive] from me?” Jackson explained. “My first day working on that film, I did a speech in a room with an actor and the whole [expletive] set was in tears when I finished. I was like, ‘Okay. I’m on the right page.’ That [expletive] is not in the movie! And I know why it’s not. Because it wasn’t my movie, and they weren’t trying to make me a star.”

“That was one of the first times that I saw that [expletive] happen,” Jackson went on to say. “There are things that I’ve done in other movies where I said, ‘Wait a minute. Why did you take that moment out of the movie?’ Because the moment, in that movie, it’s bigger than the movie.”

There were multiple nominations he felt he deserved

A Time to Kill isn’t the only film for which Jackson felt he deserved at minimum a nomination. He also felt his role as Gator Purify in the 1991 drama Jungle Fever should’ve gotten him one too. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. At that year’s Academy Awards, Ben Kingsley and Harvey Keitel earned nominations for Best Supporting Actor, which came as a surprise to Jackson.

Leonardo DiCaprio sitting, Samuel L. Jackson leaning over him.
Jackson has a list of films he felt could’ve earned him an Oscar nomination, including his role in Django Unchained. (Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company / In 614123 / MovieStillsDB)

“My wife and I went to see ‘Bugsy’… They got nominated and I didn’t?” Jackson reflected. He went on to explain why he feels he missed out on the recognition, saying, “I guess Black folk usually win for doing despicable [expletive] on screen. Like Denzel [Washington] for being a horrible cop in ‘Training Day.’ All the great stuff he did in uplifting roles like ‘Malcolm X?’ No — we’ll give it to this [expletive]. So maybe I should have won one. But Oscars don’t move the comma on your cheque — it’s about getting [expletive] in seats and I’ve done a good job of doing that.”

Jackson also felt snubbed for several other roles in Tarantino films. “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],’” he explained. “‘Django’ was probably my best shot [at an Oscar] because it’s the most evil character I’ve ever played and they generally reward Black people for playing horrendous [expletive].”

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While Jackson still hasn’t nabbed a second nomination, he did receive an Honorary Oscar in 2022 to celebrate his career.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!