If Chadwick Boseman is the first actor to have played Black Panther on the big screen, the Marvel superhero could have made his debut in the cinema in the 90s, if the project led by Wesley Snipes had not encountered so many obstacles.
Broadcast this Thursday, April 22 on TMC, Black Panther has just celebrated its third anniversary and that of its monster success at the same time. Carried by good reviews, effective trailers and a strong mobilization of the African-American community, Ryan Coogler’s film landed on the big screen in February 2018 with undeniable hype.
Which allowed him to sign the biggest start for a first solo adventure of a hero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with $ 202 million in revenue in a weekend. Then to take twelfth place among the biggest hits of all time, with a global cumulative amounting to 1.347 billion greenbacks.
Two years after his remarkable debut in Captain America: Civil War, the late Chadwick Boseman, who passed away on August 29, left his mark on 2018, in Ryan Coogler’s film-phenomenon, awarded three Oscars (including that of for Best Music awarded to Ludwig Göransson) in 2019. A privilege that could however have gone to Wesley Snipes in the heart of the 90s.
The actor has indeed confided in the columns of the Hollywood Reporter about this project which never saw the light of day, and about which many rumors have circulated over the years. So at the top, thanks to the success of Demolition Man, Passenger 57 or The Whites Can’t Jump, the actor and his manager are approached by Marvel. Which is not yet the steamroller that we know since 2008, and accumulates failures, between Howard the duck and the Punisher with Dolph Lundgren. Without forgetting this version of the Fantastic Four never released in theaters, but which makes the happiness of the amateurs of nanars.
For the Maison des Idées, declared bankrupt in 1996, the solution notably involves the heir of Wakanda, created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby: “I think Black Panther spoke to me because he was noble, and the antithesis of stereotypes about Africans, African history and African kingdoms”, explains Wesley Snipes. “It had cultural and social significance. It was something that black and white communities had never seen before (…) It always attracted me a lot, a lot. And I liked this idea of advanced technology. . It was a very avant-garde thought. “
With the blessing of Stan Lee, who “supported the Black Panther project at the time”, the actor is ready to step into T’Challa’s shoes. And this in order to help Marvel oppose the Batman and other Supermans, who made Warner happy on the big screen at the same time. But things don’t take long to get complicated.
When it is necessary, to begin with, to specify that the feature film will be centered on the superhero called Black Panther, and not the revolutionary movement of African-American liberation born in October 1966 and whose name could have been inspired by that of the character (although this has never been confirmed): “[Les producteurs] think you want to wear a beret and black clothes, and that will make a movie. “
WHEN POLICY HAPPENS
The obstacle ends up being crossed when the Columbia studio decides to take the project under its wing. And start the research to find a screenwriter and a director. Which turns out to be almost more complicated than the previous step: “We looked at three versions of the script and some director options – very interesting options at the time.”, explains Wesley Snipes while The Hollywood Reporter quotes the names of Mario Van Peebles and John Singleton, just crowned the success of Boyz’n the Hood, among the filmmakers on the shortlist.
If he will never meet the first, his discussion with the second is cut short because of a difference of point of view. “I exposed him my vision, which is close to what you see now: this world of Africa which is a hidden and technologically advanced society, protected by a field of vision, with Vibranium … And John said to me ‘ Oh no, he has the spirit of the Black Panther, but he tries to get his son to join the organization. [de lutte pour les droits civiques]. And he and his son have a problem, they are arguing because he wants to be politically correct where his son is playing the morons. ‘”
The approach to the character, the action, the stakes and everything in between was great
Back to square one for a Wesley Snipes keen to show off “Glorious and beautiful Africa. The jewel of Africa”, and whose sight eventually frightened Singleton. But it’s bad for good: “I love John, but I’m very glad we didn’t go down that road, as it would have been the wrong thing to do with such a rich project.” The latter will not find a buyer, despite “the incredible pitch” signed Terry Hayes (writer of Mad Max 2 and author of the novel “I am Pilgrim”) and whose merits Tom DeFalco, Marvel editor-in-chief between 1987 and 1994, praised.
It was about a battle in Wakanda in the opening scene, with a baby T’Challa placed in a basket that drifts down a river until he is rescued. Years later, while living elsewhere, he was attacked in an elevator and it was from this elaborately choreographed sequence that the story was to begin. “I could see [la scène] in my mind”, says DeFalco. “[J’ai pensé] ‘If this is to be our Black Panther movie, I’ll sign right away!’ His approach to the character, the action, the stakes and everything in between was great. “ What, finally, to launch the project? Alas no.
Quite the contrary even. “We failed to find the right combination of screenplay and director and, at the time, too, the thinking wasn’t as advanced and the technology wasn’t available to recreate what was there. already in the comic books. “ End clap, therefore, for a feature film in which the Black Panther costume would have been “a leotard with little cat ears on it (…) I had never imagined anything other than a leotard at the time, which was not a problem for me because I had started out as a dancer.”
More than two decades later, Black Panther has finally landed on the big screen. Supported “at 1000%” by Wesley Snipes, who saw it “a catalyst for change [capable] to open other doors and [offrir] other possibilities. “ “We need that kind of diversity and a different flavor”, continued the one who had a superheroic second chance a few years after his failure with T’Challa: “I thought to myself, come on, if I can’t make the king of Wakanda, Vibranium and the Hidden Kingdom of Africa, I just have to make a black vampire.”
Or Blade, a vampire hunter with sharp teeth created in 1973 and which he played three times on the big screen. And notably under the direction of Guillermo del Toro, who signed the second (and best) opus of the trilogy in 2002. Failing to land on the big screen during the 90s, T’Challa has had a second life on paper thanks to to the comic books by Christopher Priest and Mark Teixera, released in 1998.
The same year as the film Blade, which grossed $ 173 million worldwide, and whose success clearly paved the way for Spider-Man and the X-Men, who started the superhero wave in theaters, of which Black Panther is one of the last born.
While Wesley Snipes did not close the door to a return as Blade, it was finally Mahershala Ali, also Oscar winner in 2019, who inherited the role in the MCU. But can we still imagine him in the universe alongside the Avengers? And in the Black Panther camp, with a new film slated for 2022? Only the future will tell, but the symbol would be beautiful.
What could Captain Marvel or Iron Man have looked like? Looks envisioned by Marvel: