Samuel L. Jackson was a huge Star Wars fan, all the way back to 1977 when he sat in one of the first audiences to see A New Hope in 1977. As a struggling actor, Jackson found himself wondering if and how he could ever be a part of such a huge movie franchise. So in the nineties when he heard that George Lucas was working on a new set of prequels, Jackson desperately wanted to be in them. The turning point was a TV interview in London where they asked what director he most wanted to meet. Jackson said, "George Lucas." To his surprise, Jackson got a call inviting him to Skywalker Ranch. He met George Lucas personally, and told Lucas he would do anything to be in the movie, even settle for playing a stormtrooper.
A few months later, Jackson was pleasantly surprised when Lucasarts called to tell him they had a role for him. Jackson didn't even ask what the part was, just agreed to fly to London to shoot. Jackson didn't realize until they showed him his costume that he would be playing a Jedi. They brought him a metal case of lightsaber hilts and asked him to pick one. Two were missing, Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson having had first crack, so Jackson chose his. And yes, Jackson admits that he spent some time in his dressing room striking dramatic poses in the mirror before he went onto the set.
Jackson, of course, ended up playing Jedi Master Mace Windu. Windu was a name that George Lucas had been toying with since he conceived of Star Wars. In fact, in the first draft, Mace Windu was the name of the narrator. The name bounced around in different drafts, assigned to different characters like Leia's brother, until it ended up in The Phantom Menace.
Lucas was so impressed by Jackson's performance that he wrote a larger part for Mace Windu in Attack of the Clones. It was in this movie that Jackson received his infamous purple lightsaber. There's some confusion here. Early news reports claimed that Jackson demanded a purple lightsaber in return for playing Mace Windu. Jackson claims that it came up when he half-jokingly asked George Lucas if his lightsaber could be purple. Partly because purple is Jackson's favorite color, but he also wanted to be able to pick himself out easily in battle scenes. Lucas pointed out there were only two colors of lightsaber blades (red for evil and blue for good), but said he would think about it. Jackson thought that was the end of it until Lucas later showed Jackson some post-production footage where Mace Windu indeed had a purple lightsaber.
Jackson knew since the beginning that Mace Windu would have to die, because he didn't appear in the original trilogy with Yoda and Obi-wan. But Jackson reportedly told Lucas that he didn't want his character to, as he put it, "go out like some punk." Lucas honored his request in Revenge of the Sith by having Windu get blasted out of a skyscraper by force lightning after a battle with Darth Sidious. Jackson was reportedly pleased with the climax.
After the movie wrapped, the prop department presented Jackson with Windu's lightsaber hilt to take home. They had carved the initials "BMF" into it, a reference to his character's wallet in Pulp Fiction (Google it if you're wondering why). There's no doubt that Mace Windu has become an iconic figure in Star Wars, and Samuel L. Jackson has been immortalized forever as one of the coolest geeks who ever lived.
Wikipedia: Mace Windu
Wookiepedia: Mace Windu
IMDB: Samuel L. Jackson
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