BLACK PANTHER: Ava DuVernay Passes on Directing the Marvel Film

     July 3, 2015

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With Marvel Studios’ 2018 film Black Panther, it looked like we might possibly get Marvel’s first female director and first person-of-color director in one go with Selma helmer Ava DuVernay. A report surfaced in May that DuVernay was being courted to direct either Black Panther or Captain Marvel, the studio’s first female-led superhero pic. DuVernay didn’t shoot the report down and even seemed to address the rumors on Twitter from time-to-time, but now comes firm word that the pairing of DuVernay and Marvel won’t be happening after all.

Speaking with Essence, the filmmaker revealed that she has opted to pass on directing Black Panther over (surprise!) a difference of vision with Marvel:

“I’m not signing on to direct Black Panther. I think I’ll just say we had different ideas about what the story would be. Marvel has a certain way of doing things and I think they’re fantastic and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me.”

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Image via Marvel

It sounds like discussions between DuVernay and Marvel actually got pretty far, as she says she met with Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman and Marvel’s team of writers:

“I loved meeting Chadwick and writers and all the Marvel execs. In the end, it comes down to story and perspective. And we just didn’t see eye to eye. Better for me to realize that now than cite creative differences later.”

As evidenced by Selma and her prior features like Middle of Nowhere, DuVernay is impeccably talented and would’ve been a wonderful addition to the Marvel Studios creative team. However, her comments about creative differences with Marvel are becoming an all-too-common refrain. In order to keep the Marvel Cinematic Universe cohesive, the Marvel Studios braintrust likes to maintain a certain degree of creative control over each film. The director’s voice is certainly welcome, but ultimately Marvel has final say over the finished product, which is why they’re so fond of getting plenty of coverage during filming. Just ask Thor: The Dark World helmer Alan Taylor about how drastically his movie changed in post-production.


That’s not to say every Marvel movie is a torturous experience for the director. Clearly some filmmakers work extremely well with Marvel; James Gunn and the Russo Brothers seem to have developed fruitful working relationships with the studio. But folks like Joss Whedon and Edgar Wright, on the other hand, saw their fair share of “creative differences,” and it’s unfortunate that this seems to keep preventing exciting voices like DuVernay’s from being added to one of the most popular and wide-reaching film brands of our time.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

Ultimately, as DuVernay says, it’s better for her to recognize a difference of vision before signing on rather than coming to an impasse after the contract is signed. After crafting such a brilliant film with Selma, she’s a highly sought after filmmaker at the moment. She’s got a Hurricane Katrina movie with David Oyelowo brewing, and she recently directed the CBS pilot For Justice, although the network opted not to order the show to series. Regardless, with DuVernay now out of the running for Black Panther, look for the filmmaker to sign on to something else very soon.

As for Marvel, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of filmmaker they tap to helm Black Panther after coming so close to nabbing someone as promising as DuVernay. The movie will tentatively start shooting sometime in 2017 to make its July 2018 release date, but the ideal scenario is assigning a filmmaker early so he or she can help develop the script well in advance. I’d be surprised if they didn’t have a director for Black Panther locked up by this fall.

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