Before The MCU: NICK FURY - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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So far in our journey through life before the Marvel Cinematic Universe we've taken a retrospective look back at Black Widow, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man and Thor. Today it's time to focus on the man they all report to.

Since his 1963 debut in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1, the Marvel Comics superhero Nick Fury has appeared in many different forms of media, including film, television and video games. In this series we're concentrating on the live-action pre-MCU versions, because before Samuel L. Jackson made the character his own, with appearances in 11 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films to date along with a cameo on the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, a very different Fury fought the terrorist organistaion HYDRA.

Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (stylized as Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD upon release) was first broadcast on May 26th, 1998 on Fox, and intended to be a backdoor pilot for a possible new TV series. Written by David S. Goyer (Blade Trilogy, Man Of Steel, Batman Begins etc) and directed by Rod Hardy, the film had a $6 million production budget. How much of that went to its star David Hasselhoff is unknown. Possibly too much.

Star of Baywatch and Knight Rider, and loved the world over* for his musical talents), David Hasselhoff does seem an unlikely casting choice for the role of Nick Fury. But he makes bank, as his hit shows, and albums, attest, so a big name attached to a big movie of the week, what could possibly go wrong...

Well, how long have you got?

Hasselhoff's Fury, who from here on out will be called Knight-Fury, is a retired super spy, living in an abandoned mine shaft in the Yukon, because why not? Knight-Fury is approached to return to duty to take down HYDRA, who are threatening to attack Manhattan with a pathogen they have reconstituted known as the Death's Head virus. Think Covid-19 but rather than emanating from a wet market it's come from the cryogenically preserved Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (an ex-leader of HYDRA revived by his daughter).

Knight-Fury is joined by fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Contessa Valentina "Val" Allegra de Fontaine (played by Lisa Rinna) and Alexander Goodwin Pierce (played by Neil Roberts). Presumably David S. Goyer was paid by the letter, how else can you explain the length of those names!

Reception to the film was largely negative, with criticism of Goyer's clunky dialogue and Hasselhoff's execution. The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television found that "the production was hampered by weak, two-dimensional performances that bordered on hysteria and camp", and that Hasselhoff "just did not have the gravitas to pull off the role". I'd imagine everyone involved in the production realised long before it aired that an ongoing TV series was really not going to be an option.

It sunk without trace until in 2008 and the wake of Iron Man's success it was pushed heavily on DVD with a quick cash-in release - although I can't imagine anyone being fooled as to thinking it was part of the MCU, surely?

But, that short post-credits scene in Iron Man with Samuel L. Jackson turning up was not meant to be the next time we saw a live action Nick Fury as, after a brief consideration of a second stab at TV series fail through in 2001, the intention was for Fury to appear in 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

Director Tim Story said the script originally contained Nick Fury, but the role eventually became that of General Hager (played by Andre Braugher). No doubt this was because Fox didn't have the rights to the character of Fury at the time, and I suspect if they had persued the option Marvel would've turned them doing as plans on Iron Man and the upcoming MCU were already taking shape. Story did also reveal that some of Hager's lines in the film stayed the same and originate from Nick Fury's lines in the three issue Marvel comic book series Ultimate Extinction.

Next time we look at pre-MCU live-action life for the first Avenger, Captain America.

*Germany. Just Germany.

Previous Before The MCU Articles
Black Widow
Doctor Strange

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