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'Iron Man 2' presents Nick Fury as spy, sponsor and mentor

Geoff Boucher
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — Think of Nick Fury as the spy who came in from credits.

During the making of the first "Iron Man," Samuel L. Jackson was invited to film a quick scene in the role as "a tag," the name for those short (and often funny or sequel-suggesting) snippets of film that roll after the credits. The Fury tag was especially fun because in Marvel Comics, the modern incarnation of spy-chief Fury was in fact modeled after Jackson — which made the "Iron Man" after-credit scene one of the most memorable ever, right up there with "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Napoleon Dynamite."

The tag also turned out to be one of heck of a job audition for Jackson — signed a nine-movie deal with Marvel Studios to make his fictional espionage czar the unifying crossover character as Marvel moves forward with the plan to interlock all of its superhero films.

"The idea was just to do this tag, and we thought it would be really fun to get Sam since the comics version of Fury is based on him," said "Iron Man" and "Iron Man 2" director Jon Favreau. "Now it's become much more than that. In the ("Iron Man 2") film, he has a significant role and becomes the entry point to connect Tony Stark to the agency called S.H.E.I.L.D. and, thereby, the rest of the Marvel Universe, with Captain America, Thor, the Avengers."

In "Iron Man 2," Fury is a bit slippery — he shows flashes of candor and empathy in dealings with the billionaire super-hero Stark, but then he also makes some Machiavellian moves that make it clear that his pragmatism is greater than his patience when it comes to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secret agenda.

In Jackson, Favreau says, Marvel has a charismatic player with a black-ops grin who can hold his own in a room full of super-powered types.

"He has tremendous presence," Favreau said. "We have a scene in the film at Randy's Donuts where Tony, after a rough night, needs a talking-to. And as Fury, Sam is a combination of sponsor and mentor and also this mysterious guy who is indoctrinating him into this order of superheroes."

Will Fury be a character who will span decades as a sort of artificially young Dorian Gray (as was part of his backstory for many years in the Marvel Comics universe)? There's a scene in "Iron Man 2" where Fury talks about his firsthand knowledge of Stark's father and his personal feelings about family and legacy — does the tidbit suggest that Fury will be linking Marvel's characters through the decades with the WWII period piece "The First Avenger: Captain America" on deck in the studio's production pipeline?

"Will they say he was alive in World War II? I don't have any idea on that one. I know there's been a lot of discussion about that. There's a lot of things to be considered. There are endless possibilities and endless discussion of them."

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