In the wake of yesterday’s Marvel announcement, many people are guessing who could fill the boots of Captain Marvel, what’s coming in Phase IV and how great will Benedict Cumberbatch look in a goatee for Doctor Strange? Maybe that last one is just me, but the biggest question that we can start reasonably asking is who will direct Black Panther? While we can’t predict with certainty, we can certainly look at who may get pulled onto the short list.
During our Q&A with Kevin Feige after the announcements, I asked the mega-producer if they would be taking a closer look at minority and female directors for their first black and female led films. He responded, “Well, we are. We’re doing what we always do which is looking for the best filmmakers, the best writers; we’re looking for the best directors possible.”
While the films don’t necessarily have to be directed by a minority filmmaker, it would certainly go a long way to busting up Marvel’s current trend of all white, male directors. Black Panther is a character that is close to many people’s hearts and the film should be connected to the community it reflects. I specifically asked if Reggie Hudlin was involved in any of the talks as he was a writer on the Black Panther comics that successfully reintroduced T’Challa through the Marvel Knights imprint. Feige confirmed he was meeting with Hudlin, but did not elaborate whether it was as a writer, director or producer. Hudlin most recently produced Tarantino’s Django Unchained. If we had to guess, he would most likely be a producer on the film or contribute to the script as a writer, but his credits (House Party, Boomerang, Ladies Man) don’t exactly inspire one to hand Reggie a potentially nine-figure franchise. However, on Hudlin’s site there was this little gem of an image of Reggie, Halle Berry (w/eyes closed), Djimon Honsou and Anthony Russo of the Russo Brothers. Please note Anthony Russo is holding a copy of Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of our Fathers.
John Singleton had the gig in 2007, but it’s extremely doubtful Marvel would go back to that well as his version’s script is cited as one of the reasons the film hit a wall in development. In a 2011 interview to promote the release of the Marvel Knights motion comic, Reggie Hudlin had this to say on the state of Black Panther film scripts up to that point, “I remember reading some of those first scripts about the Black Panther, and they were horrible. There was one where he was African American, living in the projects and had no idea of his African heritage. I just found it simply incredibly offensive, and told the studio so, which I guess didn’t help me get attached to the film.”
One potential director for the film may also come from Hudlin. In 2012, Reggie Hudlin announced a partnership with RZA to produce comic book properties together, with RZA potentially directing several films. The lukewarm reception to his The Man with the Iron Fists may have put the kibosh on some of those plans, but the first-time filmmaker showed a very stylized sense of action that could make for a very interesting addition to the Marvel Universe.
Antoine Fuqua has worked on comic based properties before, developing a comic and script for After Dark with Wesley Snipes (the first actor attached to play T’Challa back in the early 2000’s at Columbia and then Lionsgate). While doing press for his film Olympus Has Fallen last year, the action director said he would direct Black Panther if the script was right. He told UrbanDaily, “With the right script, absolutely! As for casting, I’d always go straight for Denzel, if you’re talking about a certain type of character. Jamie Foxx, Wesley Snipes, Will Smith — we’ve got a handful of guys who are very powerful actors. We also have lots of talented African-American actors we’ve never even heard of.”
Even just a month ago, Denzel Washington had hopes of being involved in the film. When asked in a recent Reddit AMA what comic book character he would want to play, Washington responded, “Isn’t there a comic book, the Black Panther or something?”
With Chadwick Boseman now in place as the Prince of Wakanda, perhaps Denzel Washington would come on as T’Chaka, the King of Wakanda. A character who would eventually be killed by Klaw, the rumored role Andy Serkis is filling in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Or, while Antwon Fisher and The Great Debaters may not seem like Marvel movie material, Denzel Washington could be the right man to bring the comic to screen. In both of those films he directed young actors in great coming of age stories, which Black Panther would almost certainly be, focusing on T’Challa’s rise to lead after his father’s death, just hopefully with more action. Denzel’s experience on action sets with directors like Antoine Fuqua shouldn’t be counted out; he also served as producer on The Equalizer and The Book of Eli.
F. Gary Gray was in the running to direct Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There were no reports of ill-blood when the director pulled his name out of contention to focus on making Straight Outta Compton. Now that the NWA biopic is nearing the end of production, the director could conceivably take up Panther as his next project. The Negotiator and Italian Job director has such a diverse resume with political thrillers, comedy and action all on his filmography, he is an easy choice for Marvel to pull the trigger on. Gray was most recently attached to the video game adaptation Kane and Lynch, so there remain questions on his availability.
And finally, the name that comes up on every fan list for directing Black Panther is of course Spike Lee. The outspoken director was asked multiple times while doing press for his remake of Oldboy whether he would make a comic book or superhero film. In an interview with Screen Rant, he responded, “I’m never gonna say never but it has not happened yet.” But, during a Reddit AMA, he claimed he may have already made his super hero movie. “I did,” the director said. “Malcolm X….He didn’t wear tights or a cape. He didn’t fly through the air or transform. Yet he was considered that he had too much power for one man.”
Black Panther finally coming to cinemas is a huge leap towards diversity and equality in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so let’s hope Marvel takes its own lead and applies those principles to their search for a director. Which director on this short list would you like to see take the reins of Marvel’s Black Panther? Who else should be up for the job? Sound off in the comments below.