Samuel L. Jackson had already been in tons of movies before Pulp Fiction, but it’s the film that changed his career. He was so great in Quentin Tarantino’s movie as hitman Jules—with one of the most iconic film quotes of all time, to boot—that he received an Oscar nomination in 1995 for Best Supporting Actor.
But he didn’t win. Instead, Martin Landau took the award home for his role in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood as Count Dracula actor Bela Lugosi. To this day, it’s somehow the only time Jackson has been nominated for an Academy Award, though he’s receiving an Honorary Oscar this year.
In an interview with The Times, he admits he still thinks he should’ve been the one to take the shiny, gold bald guy home for Pulp Fiction.
“I should’ve won that one,” he tells interviewer Jonathan Dean. He also says he thinks he should’ve been nominated for his role as Gator Purify in Jungle Fever. He was snubbed, and Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley received nominations for their supporting roles in Bugsy instead.
“My wife and I went to see Bugsy,” he says. “Damn! They got nominated and I didn’t? I guess black folk usually win for doing despicable shit 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 motherfucker. So maybe I should have won one. But Oscars don’t move the comma on your cheque—it’s about getting asses in seats and I’ve done a good job of doing that.”
Jackson also touches on whether or not Spider-Man: No Way Home should have been nominated for an Oscar. Kevin Smith went full Brodie in February, saying on his podcast FatMan Beyond that the latest Spider-Man flick should’ve received a nomination for Best Picture. “They got 10 slots, they can’t give one to the biggest fucking movie of, like, the last three years?” he asked. It sparked a wider discourse on what films merit an Oscar nomination.
Though Jackson doesn’t seem to think No Way Home should merit a Best Picture nomination, he does think there should be a category where similar movies would fit. “They should have an Oscar for the most popular movie, because that’s what the business is about.”
He says No Way Home should’ve been nominated because it “did what movies did forever—it got people to a big dark room.”
There were plans to have an Oscar for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film back in 2018, but after plenty of backlash from those who felt that blockbusters shouldn’t be recognized just because they bring in the big bucks, the Academy backtracked and shelved the idea.