The Marvel Superhero Films That Never Were: WESLEY SNIPES' BLACK PANTHER - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Marvel Superhero Films That Never Were: WESLEY SNIPES' BLACK PANTHER

When Wakanda watched from the shadows.

Back in September 2005 Marvel Studios announced a Black Panther film would be among their first ten in-house movie productions based on their comic book characters, in what would eventually become the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although the film itself didn't arrive until 2018 as the 18th installment in the MCU, that early announcement was not the first time a Black Panther film had gone into some form of production.

In June 1992, Wesley Snipes announced his intention to make a film about Black Panther, and began work on it by that August. Snipes felt that Africa had been portrayed poorly in Hollywood films previously, and that this film could highlight the majesty of the continent due to the character being noble and "the antithesis of [African] stereotypes".
"We've yet to have a major black comic book hero on the screen. Especially the Black Panther, which is such a rich, interesting life. It's a dream come true to originate something [like] that."
In July 1993, Snipes planned to make that dream come true by starring as T'Challa, the king and protector of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and starting production on, what was then titled "The Black Panther" after finishing filming Demolition Man. Not only that, Snipes expressed interest in making sequels to the film as well.

However, Snipes couldn't secure backing for the film until January 1994 when Columbia Pictures made a tentative offer to fund Black Panther. Co-creator Stan Lee joined the film at this time, and it entered early development by May. Snipes personally had discussions with several different screenwriters and directors about the project, including Mario Van Peebles and John Singleton, but there was no further progress until January 1996 when Stan Lee explained that he had not been pleased with the scripts for the project and was still looking for the right one.

Around this time Columbia Pictures pulled their offer, with Snipes claiming that one of the issues the studio had with the project's development was confusion among those unfamiliar with the comics who thought the film was about the Black Panther Party - the revolutionary socialist political organization founded by Marxist college students Bobby Seale (Chairman) and Huey Newton (Minister of Defense) in October 1966 in Oakland, California.

It would be a full year later when, in July 1997, Black Panther was listed as part of Marvel Comics' film slate, and almost another year when the trade press reported that Marvel had hired Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, who at the time were editors of the Black Panther comics, to work on the film (although some years later both Quesada and Palmiotti denied this). However, corporate problems at Marvel, the result of a power-struggle in the boardroom following the company's late 1996 bankruptcy, put the project on hold in August 1998.

In mid-1999, Wesley Snipes once again announced Black Panther was a go and he was set to produce, and possibly star, in the film, while Artisan Entertainment announced a deal with Marvel in May 2000 to co-produce, finance, and distribute the film. Snipes by now had already starred in Blade, another Marvel comic book character, and felt it unlikely he'd headline another one so soon. Even the Blade trilogy's screenwriter and director of the third installment David S. Goyer stated that he felt Snipes starring as Marvel's Black Panther in addition to Marvel's Blade "might be overkill".

In March 2002, Wesley Snipes once again spoke about his determination to make a Black Panther film. He was back to saying he'd play T'Challa and headline the film, but noted that with his already contracted involvement with Blade Trinity production wouldn't begin until after that.

Blade Trinity opened December 8th 2004, not long before Marvel listed Black Panther as one of their first proposed in-house productions to form, what would become, the MCU. At this time Snipes was still very much in the driving seat, stating in June 2006 that he hoped to have a director for the project soon. In February 2007, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige reiterated that Black Panther was in development, and John Singleton was in talks to direct the film.

The trail ends here for Wesley Snipes and his vision for The Black Panther. His long and protracted legal battle surrounding tax evasion, and subsequent prison sentence, put a huge dent in his bankability (and eventual availability). If he'd not been convicted in 2008 perhaps the Black Panther film would've actually gone before the cameras a decade earlier with Snipes as the star? It's something we will likely never know the answer to, but it's interesting to think just how different things could've been in Wakanda.

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