It’s rare that superhero movies come with a single credited screenwriter because they’re such huge, sprawling productions that the moguls behind them want to make sure that—like a Star Wars movie—they correctly set up the rest of the universe. Not to mention credits for character creation in the comics and...well, the business of writing a superhero movie is tricky.
For Joe Robert Cole, co-writer of Black Panther, this process has been going on for a while. In fact, it’s been going on since he got into the Marvel writer’s program when he almost landed the job for a War Machine movie.
In an interview with Complex, Cole explained how he got into the writer’s program in a rather unconventional way. “From what I understand about the normal process is that you apply, I think by submitting a spec screenplay of some kind, they meet with you and then make their decision from there,” Cole said.
He had started off things normally, with “a Chinatown-style cop script” that Marvel met with him about. “At that meeting, they also said they were thinking of doing a War Machine movie. I pitched a concept and won that job to write the script,” Cole said. However, that standalone film for perennial sidekick James Rhodes was not to be thanks to the plan for Tony Stark and the sequel.
“Based on what Iron Man 3 was going to be, they weren’t going to do War Machine anymore. But they asked if I’d be interested in joining their writer’s program instead.” In a roundabout way, we owe Black Panther having one of the writers for its much-praised script to the PTSD-focused purposes of Iron Man 3. What that War Machine movie would’ve looked like is all interesting speculation and the pitch itself is probably under lock and key by Marvel in case they ever want to pursue that avenue, but it’s nice knowing that Rhodey was this close to getting his day in the sun.