Samuel L Jackson on Captain Marvel, his Spider-Man future – and why he’ll never say goodbye to the MCU
The actor, who’s played Avengers founder Nick Fury since 2008, has no plans to step away from Marvel movies
When RadioTimes.com meets Samuel L Jackson to talk all things Captain Marvel, it’s fair to say that he’s had better days.
“I can’t say anything else about this f***ing movie,” he laughs, after two days of interviews in London and weeks of travelling around the world to promote the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest entry.
Clearly, it's all beginning to to take its toll on the 70-year-old actor.
“Is this the last one? I don’t believe you!” he adds, mock-weeping over the prospect of being asked, for the millionth time, just what it’s like to play opposite Brie Larson’s new hero, whether he knows any secrets from Avengers: Endgame, and plenty of details about the scene-stealing cat named Goose.
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Thankfully, this is the last interview of the day – at least, before Jackson goes off to record a slightly awkward Jonathan Ross appearance with Larson – and in the end he’s more than happy to answer all of our annoying questions about the decade he’s played spy chief Nick Fury, Avengers: Infinity War post-credits scenes and the surprise revelation of how Fury gains his trademark eyepatch.
Spoiler alert: it’s not quite as dramatic as we might have expected.
Hi Samuel! In Captain Marvel, this feels a slightly brighter, more innocent version of Nick Fury. Did you adjust your performance to play that younger version of the character?
Oh, I don't know that I adjusted my performance. It's just that you assume that he doesn't know everything that he's known. He's not quite as world-weary and beaten and suspicious and angry and all those things. He's riding a desk, trying to figure out threat assessment, which is kind of boring. And he meets an interesting person who says she's from somewhere else.
He's kind of, 'Yeah right - coz you look like us, and you talk like us. So maybe you just need help.' But things start to happen!
They also de-aged you digitally - what was that process like? Just a lot of dots on your face?
It's not that many dots, actually. Like three across your forehead, three down the sides, and one on my chin. It's not that deep.
And then Lola Visual Effects does the rest, I guess. I had enough movies in the 90s for them to assess that face and find expressions that worked in this film.
Without giving it away, Captain Marvel reveals how Nick Fury loses his eye, and it’s not as dramatic as people might have assumed – what did you think when you found out about that?
I don’t know, I think it's as dramatic as you would expect. There was some conflict – though I suppose we all thought it was something more traumatic.
In fact in one iteration of the script the gag ran on longer because there was something he could have used to put on his eye and heal it, but he didn't trust it because somebody else said, 'You don't wanna use that because it'll do this, that or the other'.
It's a busy year for you in Marvel terms – how did working on Spider-Man: Far from Home compare to working on Captain Marvel?
The energy level's totally different. The dynamic between the characters too.
Spider-Man's a little more reluctant to engage with Nick Fury than Carol Danvers was. He has an intimidation factor. Even though he is Spider-Man, and I'm just Nick Fury, but... Fury’s reputation precedes him.
You say you’re not in Avengers: Endgame – but did Brie give you any clues?
I haven’t asked.
That’s respectful! Ever think you'd step away from the Marvel movies after so long?
I do step away from them; I do other movies.
Sure, but would you ever think, 'I'm done'?
‘I'm done,’ really? No, not really. Why not? I mean, Nick Fury's a great character, the franchise is great. If I was going to be part of something that's fun, and part of things that people like and I enjoy it, why stop?
When you shot that little scene for Iron Man in 2008, did you ever think you'd still be playing the character this far on?
No. I didn't figure. I was trying to figure out how long I'd have to stay to do nine movies. Because I had a nine-picture deal. And at that time it took a little longer to do movies than it does now. So I figured we'd be getting to nine about now.
Unusually, though, this time you’re pretty much the co-lead with Brie – how did that come about?
Well Brie kind of told me, when she became Captain Marvel, she was like, 'Well I'm doing this thing and I hope you're gonna be there with me. They tell me that you're going to be the other guy with me.'
And I said, 'OK, cool.' And then they finally called me that summer and told me we're going to do this, and it's going to be a two-hander with you and Brie.
It's kind of a buddy-cop movie, and Brie and I have this really great relationship. We can look at each other and make each other laugh, and we can be serious together and still laugh later.
And so I think the energy we have for each other and how we work together comes out very well in terms of what the result is that people see on screen.
Given that strong relationship, if there's a Captain Marvel sequel would you be up for returning? Maybe see Fury and Carol team up again, maybe in the present day?
Oh, of course! Definitely. I think it'd be interesting to see what her dynamic is with the not-so kinder, gentler older Fury.
I actually think the relationship is very special, and he has kept an ace up his sleeve for a very long time when he could have used it a long time ago. He used it at just the right moment, so I'm sure there's a reason for that.
Well there’s a question – if Nick could have called Captain Marvel in during all the other Avengers films, why did he wait until Infinity War?
I was in trouble. Personally. I was flaking off. Like, wait a minute. Only person I know who can handle this is this person. Let me call her now.
Very sensible. A lot of people have said Captain Marvel is a different sort of Marvel movie – but how does it stand out for you?
Well there's a level of heart in this film that you don't see in all the others, in terms of personal relationships of people inside of it, and Carol's struggle to become who she is.
We have a personal look at her doing all those things – getting knocked down, knocked down, knocked down, get up, get up, get up.
And the level of success she had as a human being before she was taken off and enhanced. The relationship she had with [Lashana Lynch’s character] Maria here – two women who are successful in a male-dominated world – and that little girl who sort of depends on them and encourages them to be special.
The message of girl power is there for sure, but it doesn't get in the way of the movie. So yes, there's a lot more heart in this movie than you usually see.
And finally, the big question of everyone’s lips – what happens to Fury’s cat sidekick Goose after the film's conclusion? We never see him in the modern Marvel movies...
Kind of hard to say. He could be at Fury's house somewhere. We haven't seen him since [Captain Marvel], and there have been a lot of movies between that time and this one. So he could be at Fury's house. He could be at Fury's mum's house.
I have to say, the cat we worked with the most, Reggie, was pretty professional. Reggie was pretty good about hitting his mark, and you'd give him a snack, talk softly to him and give him a snack after he does his thing.
Kind of like us, with a cheque!
Samuel L Jackson stars as Nick Fury in Captain Marvel, in UK cinemas now