When Selma director Ava DuVernay was in talks to helm Marvel’s Black Panther, the internet pre-emptively celebrated that she’d join the insanely small club of women who have/will helm comic book movies.* In some sense it seemed like a victory for cinema that the woman who helmed an incredible film about real-life black hero Martin Luther King, Jr. would have the platform to define the black superhero to audiences worldwide. It also would have been good news for Marvel, not only scoring an acclaimed director for their line-up, but also one that would help them fight against concerns of a stark lack of diversity in front of and behind the camera of their MCU.
But DuVernay turned the offer down. And yep, it was over a matter we might henceforth refer to as “The Edgar Wright Issue” of a lack of creative control.
THR reports that DuVernay opened up about her Black Panther considerations at the 2015 BlogHer conference, where she delivered the keynote. She said of her meetings with Marvel head Kevin Feige:
“For me, it was a process of trying to figure out, are these people I want to go to bed with? Because it’s really a marriage, and for this, it would be three years. It’d be three years of not doing other things that are important to me. So it was a question of, is this important enough for me to do?
“At one point, the answer was yes, because I thought there was value in putting that kind of imagery into the culture in a worldwide, huge way, in a certain way: excitement, action, fun, all those things, and yet still be focused on a black man as a hero — that would be pretty revolutionary. These Marvel films go everywhere from Shanghai to Uganda, and nothing that I probably will make will reach that many people, so I found value in that. That’s how the conversations continued, because that’s what I was interested in. But everyone’s interested in different things.
What my name is on means something to me — (my bodies of work) are my children. This is my art. This is what will live on after I’m gone. So it’s important to me that that be true to who I was in this moment. And if there’s too much compromise, it really wasn’t going to be an Ava DuVernay film.”
Instead, DuVernay is taking the advice she gave to those assembled, and diversifying her portfolio creatively. She’s got a series on OWN coming up called Queen Sugar, a crime drama pilot for CBS called For Justice in the works, and she’s even exploring virtual reality as a storytelling platform.
She also offered a bit of advice on how to succeed in the boys club of Hollywood, saying, “You gotta follow the white guys. Truly. They’ve got this thing wired. Too often, we live within their games, so why would you not study what works? Take away the bad stuff — because there’s a lot — and use the savvy interesting stuff and figure out how they can apply. It’s a good one for the ladies.”
*Lexi Alexander (Punisher: War Zone), Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl), and Patty Jenkins (
Thor: The Dark World Wonder Woman.)
Kristy Puchko totally gets her reasoning, and yet longs for DuVernay’s Black Panther.