How Nick Fury Ended Up Looking Like And Being Played By Samuel L. Jackson

Robert Downey Jr., arguably, is the current face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s the glue holding The Avengers together, and he might be the force that also drives them apart. But it was Samuel L. Jackson, approaching Downey’s Tony Stark in the Iron Man end credits, who got this MCU underway, and the story of how his on-screen characterization came to pass is very fun, if you haven’t heard it yet.

Comic book writer Mark Millar is the one responsible for turning S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury black – after him being Caucasian for decades – and making him look like Samuel L. Jackson in the pages of the Ultimates books. Millar recently told Business Insider that he modeled his Fury after Colin Powell, and envisioned him as a Blaxploitation hero. As Millar recalls:

Sam is famously the coolest man alive, and both myself and artist Bryan Hitch just liberally used him without asking any kind of permission. You have to remember, this was 2001 when we were putting this together. The idea that this might become a movie seemed preposterous, as Marvel was just climbing out of bankruptcy at the time."

Obviously, however, Marvel did get in to the movie business, and it was time to bring in Nick Fury as the recruiter or Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Jackson, as it turned out, was an avid comic reader, and was very familiar with the work that Millar had done. It indirectly led to his hiring for Iron Man, and his involvement in all phases of the MCU. So as Millar remembers it, he recently got to hang out with Jackson on the set of Kingsman: The Secret Service -- yet another adaptation of a Millar story. The writer jokingly apologized for "completely exploiting" the actor’s image and likeness for a character, and asked if he was annoyed. To which Jackson perfectly responded:

Fuck no, man! Thanks for the nine-picture deal!"

Very few in the MCU have enjoyed the same type of job security as Samuel L. Jackson, though Robert Downey Jr. is getting close. After kicking off the MCU in this scene:

Sam Jackson has been the connective tissue in movies like Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the first Avengers movie and this month’s Age of Ultron. Because of Millar’s creative stroke, Samuel L. Jackson has job security, and vaults filled with cash for the work he has done with Marvel.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.