Selma director explains why she passed on Black Panther

Contributed by
Jul 22, 2015

The acclaimed filmmaker behind last year's powerful Selma has opened up about why she decided not to work with Marvel on the Black Panther movie.

Speaking at the BlogHer conference in New York City last week (via The Hollywood Reporter), Ava DuVernay opened up about the discussions she had with Marvel about directing Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa in the character's big screen debut -- which would have made her the first woman of color to direct a superhero film.

Asked about her meetings with Marvel execs, including president Kevin Feige, DuVernay said:

"For me, it was a process of trying to figure out, are these people I want to go to bed with? Because it’s really a marriage, and for this it would be three years. It’d be three years of not doing other things that are important to me. So it was a question of, is this important enough for me to do?"

Apparently, it was doing some research on the character's history (he was the first black superhero) that intrigued DuVernay enough to keep talking with the studio:

"At one point, the answer was yes because I thought there was value in putting that kind of imagery into the culture in a worldwide, huge way, in a certain way: excitement, action, fun, all those things, and yet still be focused on a black man as a hero -- that would be pretty revolutionary. These Marvel films go everywhere from Shanghai to Uganda, and nothing that I probably will make will reach that many people, so I found value in that. That’s how the conversations continued, because that’s what I was interested in."

Ultimately, however, her decision to step away came down to creative control:

"What my name is on means something to me -- these are my children. This is my art. This is what will live on after I’m gone. So it’s important to me that that be true to who I was in this moment. And if there’s too much compromise, it really wasn’t going to be an Ava DuVernay film."

Her answer is hardly surprising since the issue of creative control has come up before with Marvel, most notably in the case of former Ant-Man director Edgar Wright, who left that film just weeks before production was slated to begin, and Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon, who was candid about his battles with the studio over what made the final cut of his movie. 

Our feeling here is that DuVernay and Marvel both escaped a potentially difficult situation. While the historic significance of hiring DuVernay would have been a tremendous win for the studio, it might have been an equally colossal embarrassment if she left the picture later on. As for DuVernay, she saw early on that Marvel very much has the final say over its growing web of interconnected films, and she correctly guessed that she would probably not work well in that environment. Nothing wrong with that. Other filmmakers -- like the Russos or James Gunn -- are thriving under the Marvel banner (at least so far), so it really seems like it's a case-by-case basis.

Meanwhile, DuVernay is still looking forward to seeing Black Panther: "I think it should be good when it comes out. I’ll be there, watching."

What do you think? Did she and Marvel do the right thing by not going into business together?

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