As rain poured down on New York City Tuesday afternoon, I escaped into an incredibly chilly movie theater on the Upper West Side. For more than two hours, I stared up at a giant screen and watched a group of superheroes save the world while talking about whether they could trust a man named Fury. Fury has blood on his hands. We’re being manipulated by Fury. What’s Fury’s plan here? And, perhaps most disturbing, a brilliant doctor who tragically transforms into an angry, giant green monster wondered, “What does Fury want me to do? Swallow it?”
The Avengers is an entertaining movie, an opinion shared by 96 percent of the audience on Rotten Tomatoes, and the mob is never wrong.
Nick Fury is the man who organizes Iron Man and Captain America and Thor and the Hulk and all the rest. And he’s the man – the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D – no one really trusts. Iron Man especially has his doubts.
Nick Fury is also modeled after my grandfather, a World War II veteran who won a Silver Star and later became a superspy with one eye who befriended Stan Lee and allowed the famed comic writer to use his name. At least that’s the tale I used to tell nerd girls in bars during my single days.
That part about my grandpa and the Silver Star is true, but nothing else, not even the horrific pickup line. Still, I feel a bond to Fury as he brings together our greatest heroes against the greatest evil the world’s ever encountered. Based on nothing but genealogical luck and a writer’s imagination, I feel a kinship with Nick Fury, who has been rated 33rd in one publication’s listing of the Top 100 comic book heroes. Thirty-third? The last name alone should put him in the top 20. And it certainly shouldn’t share a number with Larry Bird.
The casting in The Avengers aids in Nick Fury’s collateral cool factor. Even if he’s perhaps become something of a cliche at this point in his career, it still doesn’t get much better than Samuel L. Jackson for this role.
The casting for Mr.Fury hasn’t always been so spot-on, or beneficial to our family. In 1998, David Hasselhoff played Fury in a quickly forgotten movie. No, there isn’t a different David Hasselhoff running around Hollywood. It was the real, shirtless one.
Fortunately that movie didn’t gain a wide audience a decade ago. The family name would have become a joke, a national – or at least local – punchline. I’m sure Hasselhoff performed admirably in the featured role. Probably put a lot of time into researching what it’s like to have one eye and a lot of aggressiveness. Maybe he put together a family tree for the fictional Nick Fury and stumbled upon the real Fury clan of Minnesota. But what was the casting director thinking? Was it a late-night bet gone horribly wrong? Who got rejected for the role? Baio? Which episode of Baywatch convinced the folks with the money that Hasselhoff was the way to go with Nick Fury?
“See how he bonds with his annoying kid and cooks him dinner an hour after saving the life of a blind girl who wandered too far out into the ocean, all while dealing with the hassle of hiring a new blonde female lifeguard? That’s the combination we need for Nick Fury. Minus the Speedo.”
Entertainment Weekly did a roundtable session with The Avengers cast a few weeks ago and Jackson actually referenced the Hasselhoff movie, only to discover none of the other actors knew of the movie. And when they learned of it, poor Hasselhoff was, predictably, lightly mocked. The Fury are grateful The Hoff was sidelined for this movie.
I do share a connection with Nick Fury. We both have some important files. Many people find our site by searching for some variance of “Fury Files,” and for a time I thought these were folks actively searching for the interviews I’ve done with various writers. Someone heard about my interview with Chris Jones and looked for more, I convinced myself. Eventually I discovered the other Fury Files, the one operated by Nick Fury. Now, there’s always the chance it is people looking for TVFury. But it’s probably more likely they want more information on “short pieces highlighting various members of the Marvel pantheon.”
I’ve always loved my name. It made a great killer car in Christine and everyone from Salman Rushdie to William Faulkner has used it in book titles. It does come with certain expectations. People meeting me for the first time might expect an angry person, especially those folks who have asked with complete sincerity if it’s a pen name. Nick Fury’s re-emergence on the pop culture scene can only do good things for the Fury brand. I keep waiting for a movie to use the last name for a deranged serial killer. The hardened detective – who’s seen too much in his years on the force and just wants to make it to retirement – would tell his young, naive partner, “This is Fury’s signature. Look at these slices are only in a vertical pattern.” And suddenly all my neighbors would start looking at me strangely, wondering if they too would have to describe me one day as “Such a nice man. But quiet, kept to himself.” It’s just a movie character’s name, I’d explain, weakly. No connection, no relation.
Lucky for me a superspy dominates the box office today. A cool superspy with a shaved head and eyepatch. Nick Fury. He brought the Avengers together. He motivates them, guides them. Audiences cheer him. Maybe, somewhere, perhaps they even chant his name. Yeah, that works.
Now let me tell you about my great-uncle who was a college roommate of Stan Lee…