The Wesley Snipes 'Black Panther' Movie Could Have Been Nuts
Long before director Ryan Coogler and late star Chadwick Boseman catapulted Black Panther into "sold out Halloween costume for children" status, Hollywood didn't seem to have a whole lot of confidence in the character. The rights had been kicked around by various studios for decades, and even when Marvel got them back, CEO Ike Perlmutter famously tried to stop the movie from happening. But among those haters and doubters, one visionary had faith that a Black Panther movie could end up being a remarkable cinematic achievement of major cultural significance: Wesley "Blade" Snipes.
Snipes was first reported as working on a Black Panther movie with Columbia Pictures way back in 1992. He says he was attracted to the character because "he was noble, and he was the antithesis of the stereotypes presented and portrayed about Africans," and also because he thought Wakanda's futuristic world would look cool as hell on a movie. Snipes got Stan Lee's blessing for the project, but one problem he ran into early on was that people thought he was trying to make a movie about the Black Panthers, the civil rights revolutionaries. That was pretty far from what Snipes was trying to do, although he did prove he could rock a beret in New Jack City (1991).
Someone who didn't seem to mind the Black Panthers association was potential director John Singleton, of Boyz n the Hood, Shaft (the Samuel L. Jackson one), and 2 Fast 2 Furious fame. According to Snipes, Singleton wanted to lean on that angle -- as in, having Black Panther join the Black Panthers. And his kid, too.
Snipes says he described "the whole world of Africa being a hidden, highly technically advanced society, cloaked by a force field, Vibranium," so basically what we ended up seeing in the Marvel Studios movie. But Singleton replied, as paraphrased by Snipes: "Nah! Hah! Hah! See, he's got the spirit of the Black Panther, but he is trying to get his son to join the (civil rights activist) organization. And he and his son have a problem, and they have some strife because he is trying to be politically correct, and his son wants to be a knucklehead." So Black Panther Jr. running around being a jackass would have been a whole plot point, too.
Snipes objected, saying: "Dude! Where's the toys?!" To be fair, it was the '90s: a Tactical Revolutionary T'Challa with Machine Gun and Karate Chop Action figure could have still sold pretty well, but probably not as well as the more comic book accurate Black Panther onesies. Even though the project fell apart and Snipes moved on to intimidating another director into hiring bikers as security guards in the Blade movies, Singleton was still attached to Black Panther (and also Luke Cage) by 2007. As Snipes admits, it's probably for the best that this project never happened, though if Marvel wants to do an Into the Black Panther-Verse type thing at some point and include him as Canceled '90s Beret Wearing Black Panther, that could be kinda fun.
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Top image: Marvel Studios