The part Jackson's hair plays

October 22, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Action film star Samuel L. Jackson is known for his diversity of roles -- and for the wide array of hairstyles he chooses for them, including the cornrows he wears in Formula 51.

But Jackson gets help with the 'dos. Most people probably don't realize that, for the most part, Jackson wears wigs on-screen. He has relied on the same wig designer since going platinum as a boxing promoter in 1996's The Great White Hype.

"Sam's not fussy, but he's very particular about what he wants," said Robert Louis Stevenson, 58, who also has worked on stars ranging from Eddie Murphy to Angela Lansbury. "Usually, once the process starts, we only have about three weeks to get it ready."

Jackson has gone bald, in Shaft and the most recent Star Wars movies. He's sported a Gumby blowout (Unbreakable), Jheri curls (Pulp Fiction), the salt-and-pepper natural look (Changing Lanes) and dreadlocks (Caveman's Valentine).

To design the wigs, Stevenson and Jackson pore over a script, discuss the character, sift through photos of hairstyle choices and then commission hairpieces that cost up to $5,000 each from Los Angeles-based wig-maker Victoria Woods.

Stevenson said the most distinctive wig Jackson ever wore on-screen is one the designer didn't create: the Jheri curls of Jackson's hit-man Jules in Pulp Fiction.

Jackson came up with the idea, and a hairdresser on the set was dispatched to find one at a wig store.

"Everybody mentions how bad that wig looked," said Stevenson. "But that wig made the character look more distinct."

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