With Marvel's Black Panther film scheduled to premiere on Friday, February 16, starring Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa (Black Panther) -- the African superhero is quickly becoming a fan favorite, due in part with the release of annual Marvel films which included the character in 2016's Captain America: Civil War.
With the dominance of superhero films in the past decade, it was also quite different in the mid-90's, as Hollywood star Wesley Snipes, who was in a wave of box-office hits that skyrocketed him to superstardom, took a bold initiative to make a film about the Black Panther, which was supposed to release many years ago.
Recently speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, he shares details about the defunct project and how his version of the superhero never quite came to fruition despite his ambitious efforts.
...on the Black Panther character and what it represented.
WS: "I think Black Panther spoke to me because he was noble, and he was the antithesis of the stereotypes presented and portrayed about Africans, African history and the great kingdoms of Africa. It had cultural significance, social significance. It was something that the black community and the white community hadn’t seen before."
...on the idea of showing the beauty and lush history of Africa through the film.
WS: "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. That was always very, very attractive. And I loved the idea of the advanced technology. I thought that was very forward thinking."
...on viewing his Black Panther film as a cultural movement.
WS: "Black Panther is an iconic character who much of the world was unfamiliar with and the communities that I grew up in would love. Look, from the days of William Marshall playing Blacula in the 1970s black flicks and the fervor you found inside the black and Hispanic communities, it never crossed my mind that the audience wouldn’t be down with it."
...on Stan Lee's blessing and initial issue he faced.
WS: "He was supportive of the Black Panther project at the time." The initial struggle as Snipes explains, was he was trying to make a movie about the comic book superhero Black Panther, and not the 1960s civil rights revolutionaries. "They think you want to come out with a black beret and clothing and then there’s a movie."
...on speaking with director John Singleton, who directed Snipes in his 1991 film, Boyz n the Hood.
WS: "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."
...on how his Black Panther film never came to fruition.
WS: "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."
For additional details, be sure to read the full story on The Hollywood Reporter.
In case you missed it, the first ‘Black Panther’ clip is creating even more hype.