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Saturday, July 13, 2002


By Rob Allstetter/The Comics Continuum

SURREY, British Columbia -- Playing Nick Fury is no day at the beach, but it's still pretty fun.

David Hasselhoff, former Baywatch star, portrayed the Marvel Comics character in the made-for-television movie Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., which airs at 9 p.m. on Saturday on SciFi. He found himself a long way from the California beaches for production of the film, which premiered on Fox in 1998.

Dressed head-to-boot in black leather, chomping a nasty cigar and wearing a black patch over his left eye, the grizzled, sweaty Hasselhoff looks nothing at all like his clean-cut lifeguard character from Baywatch.

And Hasselhoff wouldn't have it any other way. He struts around the Nick Fury set, inside an old generator plant, brandishing his gun.

"I love this character," Hasselhoff says. "He's the last great American hero, a no-nonsense guy like John Wayne. The kids are going to identify with this guy because he is a hero who is vulnerable, who is not the super-power guy, but just a real guy.

"It's really a cool character. It's kind of like Knight Rider meets Man from UNCLE because he's got his base called S.H.I.E.L.D. and an eye patch over his eye and a cigar. He's got lines like, 'Guys like you cling to the bottom of the bowl no matter how many times you flush.'

"It's a fun character to play."

The movie's story -- written by David Goyer -- has S.H.I.E.L.D. calling Fury out of a five-year retirement when it is discovered that Andrea Von Strucker, the daughter of former HYDRA leader Baron Von Strucker, has brought together the splinter factions of the evil organization. She kills Fury's long-time friend and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Clay Quartermain and recaptures her father's dead body in order to use his diseased DNA to unleash the Death's Head Virus on New York City.

As Fury tracks down Arnim Zola, the Nazi scientist responsible for creating the virus, Viper, in disguise as an Interpol agent, tricks Fury and poisons him by kissing him. She takes Zola, and prepares the virus.

Fury, with 24 hours before Viper's poison kills him, and his S.H.I.E.L.D. agents must find her and the missiles containing the virus before it's too late. Fury is aided by a collection of agents that should sound familiar to comics fans:

* Val, played by Melrose Place's Lisa Rinna, a former love interest of Fury, who hasn't quite given up on him yet.

* Timothy Dugan, played by Garry Chalk, a former field cohort of Fury's who now runs the control-center operations of the agents.

* Gabe Jones, played by Ron Canada, another former cohort who is S.H.I.E.L.D.'s scientific wizard.

* Alexander Graham Pierce, played by Neil Roberts, a rookie agent who is a Nick Fury wannabe.

* Kate Neville, played by Tracy Waterhouse, an ESPer agent with neural implants who can read minds.

Hasselhoff said it was important to be faithful to the comics characters.

"We read so many comic books and so much back history on these characters because I really didn't know Nick Fury or the other characters," he says. "The more I read, the more I got excited."

Being faithful meant that Hasselhoff had to wear Fury's trademark eye patch.

"It helps you with the character because you can kind of be in your own world," Hasselhoff says. "Fury is a loner. He is all by himself, he's really an internal guy, so it helps to wear the patch.

"I don't think I could do it without the patch."

So the eye patch, which often played tricks with Hasselhoff's depth perception, was in. However, after a test, Fury's gray temples were out. They simply didn't look real enough.

But director Rod Hardy says fans will appreciate Hasselhoff's take on Fury.

"There's an appearance to David that's fits quite well. He has a very strong face on the screen," Hardy says. "I think people will be surprised at the energy and the darkness of the character that David's picked up on. This is kind of a darker and edgier version -- and yet, at the same time, it's not something your 8-year-old kid can't watch."

Fury was one of the most expensive movies Fox has made for television. The budget, estimated at nearly $6 million, includes production values above the norm for TV.

"This is a big movie. There are a lot of special effects," Hasselhoff says.

"What I like to do is make films look and feel big," Hardy says. "And, at the same time, not lose the touch of what the performances are because that's what we relate to -- the people, not just big pictures."

Aside from the action, Hasselhoff says he enjoyed the relationships between the characters in the script.

"We sat around a table in the beginning and talked with each other about our characters," Hasselhoff says. "Why is Nick Fury sarcastic and why does he have an attitude toward Val? Dugan -- what's his past with Fury?

"It was really fun. We would hang out together and improvised about our past."

Ultimately, the film drew so-so ratings for Fox, and Hasselhoff's hopes for a new franchise didn't happen. Marvel continues to shop Fury around Hollywood, and the newest incarnation will like be as a feature film.

Click on the thumbnails below for larger images from Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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