Marvel’s Black Panther is the talk of the town right now as it approaches its theatrical release. Said to be eyeing a $120 million debut (which could climb as high as $150 million when all is said and done) and riding a wave of glowing reviews, all signs point to another massive hit for the House of Ideas. Not that we expected it to be anything less, mind you. After all, Marvel can seemingly do no wrong anymore.
But if things had gone according to plan a few decades ago, we could’ve already seen a Black Panther movie, and it would have been a very, very different one from what we’re about to get. And that’s because back in the 90s, Wesley Snipes wanted to suit up as T’Challa for the studio, with the pic being a passion project of his which he desperately tried to get made.
Unfortunately for the actor, he struggled to find a script and director that aligned with his vision for the property, telling THR the following:
“We went through three different scripts and a couple of different director options — very interesting director options at the time,” Snipes said.
He did almost settle on John Singleton at one point, but ultimately, they couldn’t quite get on the same page about which direction they wanted to head in:
“I laid on him my vision of the film being closer to what you see now: the whole world of Africa being a hidden, highly technically advanced society, cloaked by a force field, Vibranium. John was like, ‘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.’”
Laughing, Snipes continued, “I am loosely paraphrasing our conversation. But ultimately, John wanted to take the character and put him in the civil rights movement. And I’m like, ‘Dude! Where’s the toys?! They are highly technically advanced, and it will be fantastic to see Africa in this light opposed to how Africa is typically portrayed.’ I wanted to see the glory and the beautiful Africa. The jewel Africa.”
It wasn’t only finding the right team that proved difficult, as the former Blade star revealed that back then, they didn’t have the right technology to bring Wakanda to life, either.
“Ultimately, we couldn’t find the right combination of script and director and, also at the time, we were so far ahead of the game in the thinking, the technology wasn’t there to do what they had already created in the comic book.”
While things didn’t end up working out, it’s clear that this is a character Snipes holds very dear, explaining why Black Panther resonates with him so much:
“Many people don’t know that there were fantastic, glorious periods of African empires and African royalty — Mansa Musa [emperor of the West African Mali Empire] and some of the wealthiest men in the world compared to the wealth of today,” Snipes says. “That was always very, very attractive. And I loved the idea of the advanced technology. I thought that was very forward thinking.”
Finally, the actor spoke about what kind of costume he would have donned for the role, saying:
“Actually, I figured it would be a leotard. A leotard with maybe some little cat ears on it. I would have to be in shape and just be straight bodied up. I never imagined anything more than a leotard at the time, which I didn’t have a problem with because I started out as a dancer.”
Though it’s a shame that Wesley Snipes never got to bring his interpretation of the iconic hero to the big screen, it’s safe to say that everything worked out alright in the end. For Black Panther, at least.
Based on the first online reactions, Ryan Coogler’s upcoming spinoff is a beautiful masterpiece teeming with memorable characters and visual effects so expertly crafted, you’d swear you were standing in Wakanda, the world’s most advanced country. It’s the proving grounds for T’Challa, though, who must convince his people that he’s the true heir to the throne.
Wakanda beckons, dear readers! And you’ll be able to deep dive into the rich world of Black Panther when Marvel’s spinoff opens Stateside on February 16th. As we mentioned above, it’s expected to collect around $120 million across its four-day opening weekend, but after last night’s social media embargo, we wouldn’t be all that surprised if that same forecast was readjusted to $150 million. Watch this space for more.