Ever since the announcement Marvel would be releasing a Black Panther movie on November 3, 2017 starring Chadwick Boseman, most of the rumors surrounding who would direct centered around Selma‘s Ava DuVernay. With her recent announcement she’s turned down the gig, Marvel essentially has to go back to the drawing board to find a helmer for the future blockbuster.
It should come as little shock DuVernay turned down Black Panther. Selma is a superb, powerful film and announced DuVernay as a serious director. Working for Marvel isn’t for everyone (see: Edgar Wright), but the only reason a director like DuVernay would tackle Black Panther is for the career boost it could provide, given the film is a success. Without the Batman films, Christopher Nolan would’ve never been able to make Inception or Interstellar. Joss Whedon went from famed TV guy to Hollywood royalty with The Avengers. Before Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn was all over the place, having written the two Scooby-Doo movies, the Dawn of the Dead remake and the campy, entertaining horror Slither. Now, Gunn can do anything he damn well pleases, like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. And let’s not forget Thor‘s Kenneth Branagh, who went from that British guy who makes a bunch of Shakespeare films to the director of the live-action Cinderella.
It could very well be that DuVernay is in a position where she doesn’t need to make a superhero movie to get to a place where she can make the films she’s truly passionate about, in which case Marvel needed her a lot more than she needed them.
Which begs the question if not her, then who should direct Black Panther? Five possibilities come to mind:
1. Ryan Coogler
It’s almost a no-brainer for Marvel to reach out to Coogler, the mega-talented director behind the heart-breaking Fruitvale Station and the upcoming Rocky spin-off, Creed, which looks fantastic based off of the first trailer.
2. Antoine Fuqua
Fuqua was left in Hollywood purgatory after American Gangster fell apart (only to be revived by Ridley Scott), but has enjoyed a comeback as of late with Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer. With this month’s Jake Gyllenhaal starrer Southpaw and the upcoming Magnificent Seven remake —featuring Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke and reigning Heavyweight Champion of the World Chris Pratt — Fuqua has never been hotter. The biggest question mark is will he return for The Equalizer 2, which would put him out of the running for Black Panther.
3. F. Gary Gray
Hovering around the edges of mainstream success for years, Gray has a golden opportunity this August with his NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton, which looks promising.
4. John Singleton
Largely absent from the big screen for the past 10 years, Singleton is the kind of studio-for-hire director that would do well in the Marvel system. His last feature, the Taylor Lautner trainwreck Abduction aside, Singleton, like Ant-Man‘s Peyton Reed, is capable enough to deliver a solid Black Panther, so long as its more Four Brothers and less 2 Fast 2 Furious.
5. Spike Lee
The celebrated director would be an inspired choice for Black Panther, and anyone familiar with the excellent Inside Man knows Lee can handle popcorn fare like a champion (Oldboy not withstanding — remaking that film was a terrible idea and nobody could’ve saved it), but this is another case of an auteur possibly butting heads with the Marvel brass. If this comes to fruition and the two parties can amicably work together, Black Panther could be a step above the standard Marvel fare.
Wildcard: Andy Serkis
Everybody needs a wildcard, and Serkis is Black Panther‘s. He’s already in the movie as Ulysses Klaue, he was Second Unit Director on The Hobbit films, and is making his directorial debut with The Jungle Book. It probably wouldn’t happen, but that’s why Serkis is the wildcard.