F. Gary Gray has been a steady journeyman director since the 1990s, but he landed a massive hit this summer with Straight Outta Compton. Now he’s getting courted for some serious blockbusters.
Yesterday, we reported that Gray was on the shortlist to direct Furious 8, and early this morning we got confirmation that he had entered early negotiations to take on Universal’s prized action franchise. While he wasn’t a particularly inspired choice, he was the safe bet. Not only had he scored a big hit for the studio with Compton, he had previously worked with star Vin Diesel on A Man Apart.
However, Variety’s story mentioned that Marvel was seeking Gray for Black Panther. Paired with the studio also eyeing Ava DuVernay for the gig (she passed on the project), it looks like they’re set on hiring an African-American director for the job, which is the smart play. It bypasses any race controversy before the film begins.
But if Gray has taken the Furious 8 gig (he’s still in negotiations, which I suppose could fall apart), then he’s likely out for Black Panther. Furious 8 is due out on April 14, 2017, and Black Panther opens July 6, 2018. There’s no time to do both films of this scale, so unless Gray gets unhappy with what Universal is offering for Furious 8 or Marvel comes along with an amazing offer for Black Panther, then it looks like Marvel’s search is going to continue for a director.
And that puts them in a tough position, although perhaps they’ll be comfortable doing what Warner Bros. did yesterday and hire someone with minimal directing experience for one of their key franchise. But I would hope that Marvel is treating the property with a little more care. While I’m not a die-hard Gray fan, he’s a capable director who would probably do an adequate job with whatever material he was given.
That being said, there are still plenty of talented black filmmakers out there, and I hope Marvel hires one of them to take on Black Panther.
Update: The Wrap is now reporting that Gray, nor any other directors are being seriously considered by Marvel until they have a finished screenplay. The studio was close with DuVernay, but after she turned them down, they decided to wait until they had a script before going out to find a director.
Speaking of the script, The Wrap also reports that Marvel in-house screenwriter Joe Robert Cole is nearing a deal to write the screenplay for the movie. Cole is an African-American filmmaker who previously wrote and directed the 2011 indie thriller Amber Lake.
If Marvel is realigning their priorities to nail down a screenplay and just now hired a screenwriter, then we’ll have to be a little patient when it comes to finding out who will get the directing gig for Black Panther.