Putting an end to a rumor that has persisted for months now, director Ava DuVernay (Selma) has officially confirmed she will not be directing the Marvel Cinematic Universe entry Black Panther. The character carries cultural significance as Black Panther was the first black superhero to appear in an American mainstream comic book– Get On Up‘s Chadwick Boseman has already been confirmed for the role. When DuVernay was named as a candidate to direct the feature, fanfare erupted on the web for what would have marked two historic firsts for Marvel– the first time a woman and a person of color would have held the director’s chair for one of their properties.
In an exclusive interview for Essence, DuVernay squashed the rumors by stating, “I’m not signing on to direct Black Panther. I think I’ll just say we had different ideas about what the story would be. Marvel has a certain way of doing things and I think they’re fantastic and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me.” It sounds like the old “creative differences” adage coming into to play, something which Marvel Studios knows all too well.
In the past, Marvel has contended (and in some cases, garnering controversial public perception in the process) with ties being cut by director Edgar Wright (who was originally set to direct the upcoming Ant-Man), Monster director Patty Jenkins (who was originally set to helm Thor: The Dark World), actor Edward Norton (who portrayed The Hulk in the 2008 iteration The Incredible Hulk) and even director Joss Whedon (who alleged that Avengers: Age of Ultron will be last Marvel directorial bid).
Still, DuVernay suggested there wasn’t any bad blood between her and Marvel. “I loved meeting Chadwick and writers and all the Marvel execs. In the end, it comes down to story and perspective. And we just didn’t see eye to eye. Better for me to realize that now than cite creative differences later … I love the character of Black Panther, the nation of Wakanda and all that that could be visually. I wish them well and will be first in line to see it.”
DuVernay came to into greater prominence late last year with the arrival of the civil rights film Selma. The film, which centered around Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march 1965 march, was one of the last years’ most critically acclaimed films, earned a solid $50 million at the domestic box office and garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Picture (the films’ original song “Glory” won the Academy Award). The Ava DuVernay-Black Panther rumor itself may not be as interesting as the deeper conversation of diversity within blockbuster filmmaking itself. Marvel, as with nearly every other facet of mainstream filmmaking, has been put under a finer, more critically-examined microscope in years of late on the subject of female and non-white representation. That conversation continues just as this story comes to an end.
Either way, Marvel Studios has set Black Panther for a release date of July 6, 2018. The search for a director continues. Boseman (who broke out in the 2013 Jackie Robinson bio ’42) will first appear in Captain America: Civil War which is set for release on May 6, 2016.