Nicholas “Nick” Joseph Fury has been a fixture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since emerging from the shadows of Tony Stark’s living room in the post-credit scene to 2008’s Iron Man. Samuel L. Jackson was a spry 59-year-old when he first donned the eyepatch and leather trench coat to play the mercurial S.H.I.E.L.D agent. Spending a decade as the glue that holds The Avengers together has taken its toll on Fury for sure, but Jackson is no worse for wear.
During a visit to the set of Captain Marvel in the summer of 2018, the temperature on a Baton Rouge farm tops 90 degrees but you couldn’t tell by looking at Sam. Sitting comfortably with his legs crossed, sporting a full head of hair, the 1990s version of Nick Fury is as cool as Jackson’s IMDB page. No sweat can be found on his brow, but there are a few performance capture dots glued to his profile to give him a “poor man’s facelift.”
“I see myself as young every day,” says the most bankable septuagenarian in Hollywood. “I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror and I say ‘You’re not 60. No, you’re 70.’ I don’t pay much attention to that. I go by how I feel. I’m ok. I’ll look younger than this by the time I finish.”
Captain Marvel is the origin story of Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot who becomes a superhuman hero. Brie Larson stars as the titular hero and Lasana Lynch, Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn fortifying the cast. The film also serves as the foundation for a young Nick Fury before he becomes an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Their relationship is teased in the post-credit scene of Avengers: Infinity War, when Fury summons Captain Marvel with an old pager before he joins half of the universe in Thanos’ great culling.
“The hard part for me is being a Nick Fury that is essentially a bureaucrat,” says Jackson. “He’d been a desk jockey for a while. Once we left the Cold War and the spy business, now his job is threat assessment. Where is the next threat coming from? Is it coming from China, Russia, Africa….and all of a sudden, he meets this person and sees these things and realizes oh, there’s a threat out there too. And believing in aliens is not something we’re wired for until you see ‘em. ‘Oh shit, they are out there.’ Now the job is convincing the people with the money that we need to figure out a way to fight something that doesn’t live here that can do things that we can’t do. And that’s the beginning of Nick’s fight with the bureaucrats and the cynicism in the world.”
The upside is that this film takes place before Nick Fury loses his eye, so there is no patch to wear every day. “It’s easier to learn my lines. It’s easier to learn with two eyes than with one.”
Throughout the conversation Jackson maintains a sharp wit, weaving in and out of topics from longevity in music (“Do you think Drake and Fetty Wap will be played in 20 years?”) to his exhaustive work schedule (“On the 7th I go to London for the Incredibles 2 premier on the 8th and work on Spider-Man on the 9th. But my vacation is coming.”) But the veteran finds the humor in the reality of his work, offering up a gem about Avengers 4 in the process.
“I think there’s a point in Avengers 4, one day there were sixty Marvel heroes on the set at the same time,” he says. “That’s more than all those people that showed up in Wakanda to start that fight. Why they had to go to Wakanda to fight? Of all the places they could have tore up they showed up in Wakanda. I tried to figure out how to get there. I asked. So did Don (Cheadle) so did Anthony. But they made it, I didn’t. I’m the only Black person in the Marvel Universe that has not been to Wakanda.”
Seeing an opening, I dare to ask the man who has starred in both Marvel and Star Wars films (Jackson was Jedi Mace Windu in The Clone Wars, The Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones) to settle a bet from Twitter: Can a lightsaber cut through Vibranium? Mark Hamill and Chris Evans have each weighed in, but what does Sam think?
“A lightsaber will cut through anything,” Jackson says without hesitation. “Vibranium also.”
Catch Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel on March 8th.
Photo Credit: Marvel Studios