While Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Brie Larson-starring “Captain Marvel,” mostly functions as a big budget introduction to the superhero, tucked inside of it is yet another origin story. While Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury has been a steady presence in the franchise since it first began, his background has remained a mystery, one that “Captain Marvel” helps open up by way of an unexpected friendship that humanizes the tough-talking leader. It’s pulled from one of the actor’s own real-life relationships.
In the film, Jackson’s Nick Fury is one of the first people to come into contact with Larson’s jet pilot Carol Danvers, who literally falls to Earth after a stint in space. Carol thinks Fury is an idiot, while the future head of S.H.I.E.L.D. is pretty confused as to why an obviously human woman is going on about being a space alien to government brass. As the pair navigate each other and the increasingly weird circumstances of the ’90s-set film, “Captain Marvel” turns into something of a buddy comedy, and Larson and Jackson’s real life bond shines through.
“We know each other very well,” Jackson said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “We do better back and forth, we do laugh easily between the two of us. There is a sly sort of looking at each other and testing each other in an interesting way in terms of first contact: ‘crazy lady, dumb guy.’ … All those things work very well and we work very well together.”
When Larson signed on for “Captain Marvel,” studio brass told her that they hoped to pair her Carol Danvers up with a young Nick Fury. Her long-time friend was game to reunite with his “Kong: Skull Island” co-star. “She called me and said, ‘They want us to be in this movie together!’ and I’m like, ‘I have to do it, I have a contract, so, here we go,'” Jackson said with a chuckle.
Their bond also helps ground what is ultimately a major turning point for Jackson’s character, who has always been known to MCU audiences as the one man who can connect the universe’s disparate heroes. In “Captain Marvel,” Fury is forced to get hip to the superhero world quite quickly, all thanks to Carol. It’s not just her origin story, it’s also the beginning of what would become the Avengers, and Fury’s ability to recognize extraordinary talent in nutty places.
“As Nick Fury tells her, ‘I kind of know a warrior when I see one, and you are that thing that you say you are. I don’t know that you’re an alien, but I do know that you’re a soldier,'” he said. “Nick Fury being Nick Fury probably realizes that, ‘Okay, the people who are above me probably know there’s aliens and they never said anything, or they got some somewhere. So now I can’t trust them, which is the beginning of him being who he is, and understanding, ‘Okay, I’ve got to get together a force of people that can help me do what I need to do in this world.'”
Jackson says he and his co-star owe their bond to Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ 2017 monster film “Kong: Skull Island,” in which Jackson was cast as the leader of an ill-fated military squadron and Larson was on board as the sole woman, a war photographer hired to shoot pictures of what turns out to be King Kong himself. The film, which is part of Legendary’s MonsterVerse, was shot over almost six months in Vietnam, Hawaii, and Australia. The big budget feature was mostly set outdoors, and grueling weather combined with large-scale action sequences led to on-set camaraderie that stuck.
“It was a really tough shoot, and we were in a lot of remote locations and trying to figure out where we were, what we were doing, how it was happening, you know what I mean,” Jackson said. “You don’t have cell reception, you kind of have to interact with each other and talk, and you hang out, and you fight bugs together. We did that and we really enjoyed commiserating and kind of supporting each other.”
During production, Larson was also juggling the demands of the island-set action movie with making the rounds for her eventually Oscar-winning role in “Room.” Jackson said he was the one begging her to come back from each awards show (or, in some cases, not even going in the first place), though her dedication to the campaign always won out over his protestations.
“I was kind of the needle guy, when she was constantly running in and out going to award shows all over the planet from remote locations, always in that ‘ra-ra Brie, hurry back, hurry back, hurry back. You don’t have to go to this one, you won the last one, you know you’re going to win this one, they’ll just send it to you, you don’t have to go, just stay here with us!,'” he said. “But she never did, she always had to go.”
During “Kong: Skull Island,” Larson was also gearing up to make her feature directorial debut, “Unicorn Store.” Though another actor was in talks to play a supporting part alongside Larson, who also starred in the film, when Jackson got wind of the project and script, he was a little put out that his new pal didn’t come to him first. The part was a fun one, too, the “salesman” at the eponymous store that provides its patrons with childhood dreams come true in the grown-up fairy tale story.
“I read it, and they told me who the actor was that was going to play the guy in it, or was supposed to play the guy in it, I was like, ‘Really?'” he said. “So when I saw her the next day, I was kind of like, ‘So you’re making a movie, huh, you wrote it and you’re directing a movie and you’re gonna put this actor in it, and you didn’t even ask me?’ She was like, ‘Well, I didn’t want you to say no,’ and I was like ‘Oh, no, you think that other actor’s better than I am and he’s gonna help you make more money, well, he’s not. Not only that, he’s not going to do the movie, and I’m not either.'”
He continued with a laugh, “She’s saying ‘No, I was ready to ask you,” and I was like, ‘Okay, so ask me.’ So, I ended up in the movie. We bonded through that, and we bonded through our election disappointment, because we were shooting during the election and election day we were there and we were like ‘Ah, no, what are we going to do?’ And that was that.”
Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios will release “Captain Marvel” in theaters on Friday, March 8.