The hardest-working man in Hollywood has the hardest-working head in Hollywood. With more than 100 film and TV credits, Samuel L. Jackson has had almost as many hairdos as he’s had roles — from the lopsided, side-parted wannabe ‘fro in Unbreakable to cornrows cascading almost down to his plaid kilt in the new Formula 51.
Jackson’s mane man, Emmy Award-winning stylist Robert Stevenson, takes credit (or blame) for most of the actor’s wiggy ways. Stevenson, who’s been doing his ‘do since 1996, has alternately delighted and frightened audiences by adding hair where it no longer grows or taking it away entirely.
Take Formula 51. That was a “real challenge,” Stevenson says, transforming Jackson’s character Elmo McElroy from a hip, afro-sporting college dude in the ’70s to a cornrow-wearing chemist of the new millennium. Stevenson had to find the right kind of hair and a wig cap that blended in with Jackson’s flesh; sew each strand of hair onto the cap; cut it with a jagged edge to match Jackson’s receding hairline and then hook up the braids.
These cornrows are destined to go down in hair history as one of Jackson’s most memorable hairdos. We did a little head-hunting to find others. Here are just 10 of many hairstyles that kept eyes riveted on Sam the Man and his $3,000 wigs:
Changing Lanes. If Jackson looks like the insurance man he portrayed earlier this year — wearing a neat, conservative little haircut with or without some bookish glasses — watch out. Either his character is having a bad day, or someone else is about to.
The Caveman’s Valentine. Maybe we should say Double Dread Head, for Romulus Ledbetter had enough locs for two hallucinating homeless men in the 2001 film. Beneath all that hair hid a gifted composer with a quest for justice and a longing to be a daddy again.
Shaft. Jackson lived up to the challenge of this 2000 update in his coolest and sexiest role to date — sleek bald head, geometric goatee tapered along the jaw line and more Armani than most private dicks can afford.
Deep Blue Sea. We thought LL Cool J’s character would be the first brother killed off in the 1999 flick. Instead, a shark-on-steroids bit into a preachy monologue by Jackson’s Russell Franklin, a loaded investor with an old-school version of a high top with white near his temples and gray in his beard.
Star Wars Episode I — The Phantom Menace Another bald head for this 1999 version of Star Wars, but Mace Windu’s was not as sexy as John Shaft’s. Maybe it was the lack of facial hair. Still, the force was with Windu, a respected leader with Jedi juice like Yoda.
The Red Violin (1998) featured a buttoned-down Jackson as Charles Morritz. As he set out to authenticate a 17th-century, Italian violin, the half-bald strings expert wore gray wool suits that complemented the salt and pepper in his hair and beard.
Jackie Brown. Run if you see anyone who looks like conniving, murderous Ordell Robbie in real life. His is a confusing coiffure, but you’ve got to admit it was creative: dusty red, closely cropped hair in the front, accented with long braids in the back and a four-inch microbraid suspended from his chinny-chin-chin for the 1997 crime drama.
Eve’s Bayou. A doctor who makes house calls to women desiring special cures and who touches little girls where he shouldn’t needs a properly shady ‘do — a half inch of old-money waves with a sinister moustache in the 1997 indie hit.
Pulp Fiction Hit man Jules Winnfield’s drippy Jheri curl do was a scary curl — extra wet and shiny. It made lots of folks mad — the shame of it all. But hey, that’s what made the 1994 movie memorable and Oscar worthy.
Jungle Fever. In a case of art virtually imitating life, Jackson was dead on as the disheveled Gator Purify, an endearing — yet frustrating — drug addict in this 1991 Spike Lee joint. Jackson literally faked the funk for this breakthrough role, unlike Halle Berry, who went days without bathing or combing her hair.
Photo Credits: © Paramount Pictures/ © Miramax/ © Lucasfilm Ltd./ © Miramax/C © Touchstone Pictures