Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury left Earth. As he was a big part in founding the Avengers initiative, fans were left wondering what the future held for the beloved character. In Secret Invasion, which aired its finale last week, audiences finally got to see post-blip Nick Fury.
Given how beloved the character is, director Ali Selim wanted to make sure the Disney+ series was a spectacle, while also servicing fans new and old alike.
“When I signed on, I found a vintage, complete set of the comics. I was immediately told ‘don’t read them’ – so I read them,” Selim tells Supanova during a post-finale interview. “I had to figure out what was different about it or not, and I basically found that Kyle [Bradstreet] had created something completely unique.
“I’m sure for the super fan it’s informed by the comics anyways, but we didn’t rely on them as a crutch – we just moved ahead with the story. There’s always references from the MCU, Easter eggs, bread crumbs, all that kind of stuff. But, I feel like my best job is to tell the story that exists within these four walls; make it as clear as possible so that you don’t have to rely on the audience bringing their experience from 12 years ago. It’s a story that exists unto itself.”
He continues, “I think that’s always the challenge working with Marvel, that it’s a beloved brand, you have to keep it fresh and surprising. That’s the tightrope that we walk.”
This is the first Marvel project that Selim has worked on and he admits with a smile that he “rejoiced every day”.
“I think Marvel is the pinnacle of storytelling in the industry today, who wouldn’t want to work with them? The amazing cast, it’s a dream come true for any director. To walk on set on any given day and work with Samuel L. Jackson, Olivia Colman, Emilia Clarke…”
Outside of the Marvel name and amazing cast, he says he was drawn to the “underground, rumbling theme of ‘other’”.
“Other in society, other people who are different from us, our sense of other in ourselves,” he explains. “I think that’s what Nick Fury is struggling with. The Nick Fury that we meet in episode one, he’s older… disoriented by the blip, disoriented by his time away from Earth – I think like all of us were during the pandemic.
“So, there was a lot of personal, real-life stuff that I loved exploring with Sam and Ben [Mendelsohn], about being older and finding your purpose, finding your new purpose, all of those things. For me, it’s more thematic but at the same time, it’s a lot of fun to blow [things] up and dangle actors from wires, and all that good stuff. It’s a playground.”
The look and feel of this series are different than previous Marvel installments; it was important to Selim that it felt authentic and grounded.
“As an audience member, I feel a scene differently when I feel the three-dimensional space that these three-dimensional characters are existing in, living in and loving in. So, it’s always important to me to do as much practical location work if it’s possible,” he says. “I think there are times where you need to do blue screen, and everything needs to be CGI, but it loses a sense of humanity for me. I fought really hard to put as much of this on location as possible.
“I mean, there’s a great scene in episode two – with [Ben Mendelsohn’s] Talos and Fury on a train and there’s no way you could shoot that on a moving train. You’d have to back the train up and start again and the noise and the dialogue… so we have to shoot it on a stage.
“But it was important to me that we build an actual train set, with an actual glass window that they could interact with. What’s happening outside the window doesn’t feel very CGI to me, it feels very natural because we went out and shot that.”
The attention to detail didn’t stop there, with Selim also pointing out the show’s costumes.
“[Costume designer] Claire Anderson did an amazing job researching fabrics, and she’s obsessed with how it drapes on actors,” he tells.
“It’s all beautiful stuff, and that’s where Remi [Adefarasin] comes in, he’s such a gifted, deeply experienced cinematographer. Everything for him is story. Story and performance… how do you communicate the story?
“I think it goes in that order: you find the locations that provide the actors with something tangible to interact with. Then, you dress them in a certain way that makes them move in a certain way, feels natural and that they’re comfortable. Then, you have someone like Remi, who can see the truth in the performance and see the beat of the story.
“Ultimately, it’s about, ‘What is the truth of our story and how do you capture that?’ That’s been Remi’s gift.”
Selim wraps by saying that it’s the “really quiet, interesting moments” and “the choices that the actors make to communicate something that should be internal but they make it external” that will stick with him from the project.
“That to me, is electric and magical,” Selim says. “I feel that in the scene with Don Cheadle and Sam Jackson in the bar when Rhodey fires Fury… I feel an electricity that’s incredible. Same with the scene in episode five with Sam Jackson and Emilia Clarke – there’s just this electricity that makes me feel like I’m doing my job.”
He chuckles to himself, “That being said, there’s a lot of fun that goes on [while] shooting action sequences, where you really just become a 12-year-old kid. I think it’s true for the actors too. You’re just blowing stuff up and Emilia Clarke is swinging from a rope and it’s just a lot of fun.
“What I’ll carry with me is the relationships I’ve made. I love those actors; I’ve stayed in touch with them all. We send each other love letters all the time, and I hope it leads to something more for all of us.”
All six episodes of Marvel’s ‘Secret Invasion’ are now streaming on Disney+