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Although it may seem like Samuel L. Jackson is in everything these days, he’s still only one man. He can’t be in multiple places at once, and that presented some trouble in the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – when his on-screen counterpart Nick Fury actually seemed to be everywhere. However, the limitations of Jackson’s involvement in the MCU actually turned into a blessing for some early characters. We’ve just learned that a now-fan-favorite agent of S.H.I.E.L.D owes his increased role in the MCU to Samuel L. Jackson’s behind-the-scenes negotiations with Marvel.
During a recent appearance on Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast, screenwriter Zack Stentz revealed that actor Clark Gregg owes his role in Thor to Samuel L. Jackson’s delaying tactics during negotiations. They knew they wanted to use the shady government organization as the first Thor film’s pseudo-bad guys turned allies to the titular hero, but Jackson’s scheduling conflicts forced them to think outside of the box. Thor’s inability to confirm whether or not they would get Nick Fury ultimately led to the use of Agent Phil Coulson as the S.H.I.E.L.D agent leading the operation in New Mexico. But don’t take our word for it; this is what Zack Stentz had to say regarding the matter:
And then they’re like ‘Well, you can have S.H.I.E.L.D., but Sam Jackson’s holding us up in negotiations so we don’t know if we can have Nick Fury. And we’re like ‘Well, how about that Clark Gregg guy from the first Iron Man, he was great and he popped! Can we have Coulson?’ And they’re like ‘Coulson, Coulson, Coulson… oh him! Yeah, you can have him.’… They ended up giving him a bigger role in Iron Man 2 because they liked how he was popping in Thor. Clark Gregg actually sent us t-shirts as a thank you.
Nobody will ever accuse Clark Gregg of not enjoying his time as Phil Coulson. The guy seems to always have a ball in the part, and he expressed his profound gratitude to Zack Stentz and the rest of the folks behind Thor by sending them t-shirts. His increased role and popularity in Thor eventually led to an increased role in The Avengers, at which point Marvel realized they had a bona fide fan-favorite character on their hands, so they gave him a spinoff series in the form of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Not a bad gig for a guy who started off as a bit part in the original Iron Man.
Phil Coulson has become one of the most universally beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe characters. He brought a certain degree of charm and humor to the Phase 1 movies that helped launch the behemoth franchise in its early days. Our only hope now is that he someday finds himself back on the silver screen alongside Earth’s mightiest heroes; maybe Samuel L. Jackson can help with that as well.