Like so many things related to Marvel, it all started in the Ultimate Universe. In issue #4 of The Ultimates, team members fan cast each in a movie adaptation of their lives. When asked about his pick, Fury responds, “Mr. Samuel L. Jackson, of course.” The line, written by Mark Millar, referenced the fact that penciler Bryan Hitch used Jackson as an inspiration for this new version of the Director of SHIELD.
Appropriately, Hitch’s drawings helped lead to Jackson being cast as Nick Fury for Iron Man in 2008, taking the place of David Hasselhoff, who played the character in a 1998 tv movie. It’s even more appropriate that Jackson has taken it upon himself to develop the character’s live-action appearances.
In an interview with Collider, Jackson revealed that he largely controls Fury’s lines. “I’ve been doing Nick Fury for so long, I know what he sounds like and I know how he thinks and how he feels,” Jackson insisted. “If the writer is a fan of that kind of thing – the superhero genre – they know how to do it.” So when working with a screenwriter who understands comics, Jackson has no problems.
But Jackson goes on to admit that he encounters scripts that don’t have the right tone. “The writer knows what he wants to say, but he hadn’t said it, so let me help,” Jackson explains. He’ll then go back to the director and unpack his reasoning. “Look, I know you wrote this, but this is a better way to say that as Nick Fury,” Jackson tells his directors.
While such an approach may be unusual, especially in a cinematic franchise run so closely by MCU chief Kevin Feige, it clearly works. Over his ten appearances in MCU films, plus cameos in the Agents of SHIELD series, Fury has become one of the most popular characters in the franchise. Much of that credit goes to Jackson, for ensuring the character’s consistent voice and development.
Much of that development comes from scratch, as his version deviates heavily from the comic book character. Initially debuting as a white World War II soldier in 1963’s Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Fury soon became a secret agent in Fantastic Four #21 from the same year.
Jackson will get the chance to fully explore Nick Fury in the upcoming Secret Invasion series on Disney+. In the character’s first lead role, Fury uncovers an invasion by shape-changing Skrulls, who have already infiltrated powerful places on Earth. With the help of the Captain Marvel breakout character Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and MCU heroes, Fury works to stop Queen Veranke from conquering Earth.
While the situation may be dire for Fury, getting to play the character is a dream come true for Jackson. “It’s very satisfying to be a part of a world that I admired for so long when I was a kid,” he explained. No wonder he’s so protective of a character he so effectively co-created.