Today in “We Could Have Had It All” news, Ava DuVernay told Essence magazine in an interview that she ended up passing on the Black Panther directing gig, citing “different ideas” with Marvel over the direction the movie should take. This is a total bummer, because DuVernay seemed like a great fit, and she’d passed all the major checkpoints, garnering support from top Marvel brass and meeting with Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, only for things to fall apart at the very last stage. It’s not exactly unfamiliar ground for Marvel, who grinds up directors like they’re making director sausage, but it still sucks. DuVernay was an exciting choice for several reasons, not least of which is that she’s a damned good filmmaker.
So where do they go from here? Fans are tossing around Dope director Rick Famuyiwa’s name, which is understandable given both the awesomeness of Dope and his general nerd credentials, and I’d also be interested to see F. Gary Gray’s take. Gray has experience directing action movies for studios (The Italian Job, Law Abiding Citizen) and doing character-driven stories (the upcoming Straight Outta Compton NWA biopic). They’ve got plenty of time to hire someone since Black Panther isn’t slated until 2018, though they were trying to get a deal done in time for the new director to be on Captain America: Civil War’s set to watch Boseman working on the character. Civil War is set to wrap in just a few weeks, though, so that’s probably out the window at this point. (And let’s take a moment to tip our hats to the terrifying security around Civil War that they’re nearly done and still no leaked images of Black Panther or Winter Soldier have emerged.)
It feels like it’s getting harder and harder for Marvel to lock down talent for their projects. Given their baseline success, that’s counter-intuitive, but except for the out-of-nowhere Chadwick Boseman casting, every casting/director story for the last couple years has been a nightmare, up to and including last year’s round of director roulette with Ant-Man. It seems that despite what directing a Marvel movie can do for a filmmaker’s career, many of them don’t want the gig because everyone knows what it entails. Ava DuVernay was exciting as a Marvel director because she’s not only hugely talented and authorial, but she actually WANTED the job.