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Before Blade, Black Panther was almost the Wesley Snipes movie that saved Marvel

Contributed by
Jan 30, 2018

Wesley Snipes jump-started Marvel’s cinematic showings after the company had answered the high-caliber Batman and Superman movies coming from their rival with tepid weirdos like Howard the Duck, Dolph Lundgren's The Punisher, and 1994’s Fantastic Four. His Blade was a hit for the then-hot Snipes, but also helped the recently bankrupt Marvel find a hit and pave the way for X-Men -- and encouraged Sony’s Spider-Man films.

But before all that, almost 25 years ago, there was the chance for Black Panther.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Snipes details the development of his take on the Wakandan hero back in the ‘90s. “I loved the idea of the advanced technology. I thought that was very forward-thinking," Snipes said of Wakanda, arguing that Black Panther “had cultural significance, social significance. It was something that the black community and the white community hadn’t seen before."

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Snipes cites blaxploitation genre pics like Blacula as evidence that audiences would welcome a film that represented them (which is what early reactions seem to be for the new Black Panther), but the hard part in getting the movie made was convincing people that it was just that: a genre film.

Snipes said that directorial favorite for the project, John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood), was more caught up in the name of "Black Panther" and its historical associations. “Ultimately, John wanted to take the character and put him in the civil rights movement. And I’m like, 'Dude! Where’s the toys?!’”

While there was one pitch in particular from screenwriter Terry Hayes that stood out in Snipes’ mind, the problem getting the movie going was one of vision. Nobody could agree, and that stalled things out. So hey, Snipes figured, why not take that development experience and pre-planning to a new hero? Moving from Black Panther to Blade was “a natural progression and a readjustment,” and it might not be over yet.

"If Blade 4 comes along, that is a conversation we can have. And there are other characters in the Marvel universe that, if they want to invite me to play around with, I am with that too. I think the fans have a hunger for me to revision the Blade character, so that could limit where they could place me as another character in that universe."

Even without Snipes, general audiences will be able to see a Black Panther movie, finally, on February 16.