Pop Culture | 90s | Retro
Wesley Snipes Almost Gave Us "Black Panther" 20 Years Ago
If you're anywhere near the internet these days (which you obviously are) then you've undoubtedly heard that Marvel's Black Panther is making movie history. The highly anticipated movie already broke the record for first-day advance ticket sales for a Marvel movie, previously held by Captain America: Civil War.
Black Panther is also on pace to shatter the record for biggest advance ticket sales for any superhero movie in history.
“Black Panther is riding an incredible wave of momentum right now,” said Fandango editor Erik Davis. “It’s one of the biggest and most anticipated movies to ever open in the month of February, and its trailers have electrified the internet."
But while the newest Marvel movie is set to break even more box office records on its opening weekend, Wesley Snipes revealed that he was ready to make the iconic superhero come to life 20 years ago.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Snipes opened up that about the struggles he faced while trying to bring the fictional nation of Wakanda to life. The Blade actor said he felt a connection to the comic book character that he wanted to explore.
"I think Black Panther spoke to me because he was noble, and he was the antithesis of the stereotypes presented and portrayed about Africans, African history and the great kingdoms of Africa," Snipes tells THR. "It had cultural significance, social significance. It was something that the black community and the white community hadn’t seen before."
Snipes's name was already holding a lot of clout in Hollywood, but that didn't make his battle to get Black Panther on the big screen any easier. Marvel approached Snipes and his manager with the idea of turning the iconic African-American superhero into a live-action film. At the time, however, Marvel was failing financially. They eventually declared bankruptcy in 1996, while DC was pumping out box-office hits.
"Our major competitor was owned by Warners, and they were coming out with Superman movies and Batman movies...We were out there struggling," recalled former Marvel editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco.
That's why they hoped Snipes could bring some name recognition to their movies, and the Demolition Man star was more than happy to help.
"Black Panther is an iconic character who much of the world was unfamiliar with and the communities that I grew up in would love," Snipes said. "Look, from the days of William Marshall playing Blacula in the 1970s black flicks and the fervor you found inside the black and Hispanic communities, it never crossed my mind that the audience wouldn’t be down with it."
Creator Stan Lee gave his blessing to Snipes, and the hunt for a crew began.
"We went through three different scripts and a couple of different director options — very interesting director options at the time," Snipes said. "They were trying to find the young, up-and-coming black directors."
As for costumes, Snipes doesn't think it would have been the high-tech suit that 2018's Black Panther wears.
"Actually, I figured it would be a leotard," he joked. "A leotard with maybe some little cat ears on it. I would have to be in shape and just be straight bodied up. I never imagined anything more than a leotard at the time, which I didn’t have a problem with because I started out as a dancer."
Sadly, though, things didn't work out.
"Ultimately, we couldn’t find the right combination of script and director and, also at the time, we were so far ahead of the game in the thinking, the technology wasn’t there to do what they had already created in the comic book," Snipes said.