Why Ava DuVernay Turned Down Black Panther

Monday, 20 July 2015 - 11:44AM
Marvel
Black Panther
Ant-Man
Monday, 20 July 2015 - 11:44AM
Why Ava DuVernay Turned Down Black Panther
We were incredibly excited when rumors swirled that Selma director Ava DuVernay was in talks to direct Black Panther for Marvel, and equally disappointed when she passed on the project. According to her closing keynote at the 2015 BlogHer conference, her motivations ultimately came down to that annoying catch-all: "creative differences." But her explanation of those creative differences might provide some insight into the creative forces behind the MCU, as well as their recent streak of losing visionary directors:

Opening quote
"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?

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. But everyone's interested in different things.

What my name is on means something to me - (my bodies of work) 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."
Closing quote

So essentially, Marvel told her that she would be a cog in a machine, and she didn't want to compromise her artistic integrity. I can't say this comes as a surprise, considering that Marvel movies follow their (admittedly winning) formula to a tee. With rumors that Edgar Wright and Kenneth Branagh (and possibly Patty Jenkins as well) departed the franchise because they were being creatively boxed in by Marvel executives, it makes one wonder if Marvel isn't allowing their directing talent to create anything new or different. 

Arguably, the Marvel director who has had the most creative control has been James Gunn, most likely because Guardians of the Galaxy was so far removed from the rest of the MCU. Many would argue that Guardians was the best MCU film, and I doubt that anyone would dispute that it's the MCU film with the most distinctive style. So while it's hard to blame Marvel executives for taking an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude, they're going to miss out on legendary directors and are much less likely to replicate the success of Guardians.

In the case of Ant-Man, Marvel let Edgar Wright go because they wanted Ant-Man to be a more recognizable, less offbeat Marvel movie, and they got their wish, which is probably why Ant-Man is performing tepidly at the box office. If Wright had stayed on, it could have performed terribly, or it could have been another Guardians, but it likely would never have been this generic.

Similarly, I'm a huge Joss Whedon fan, but aside from a few shining moments, there was almost none of Whedon's signature style in either of the Avengers movies. He was able to infuse his sense of humor into some of the dialogue, but he was fairly open in interviews about the many creative concessions he had to make, especially for Age of Ultron. If he had been allowed to have creative control, once again it would have been a riskier proposition, but it would have had the potential to do something truly different with superhero movies, like Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight series.

And in DuVernay's case, they're not only losing a visionary director by not ceding creative control, they're missing out on an opportunity for more diversity behind the camera. Admittedly, it's a little condescending that they offered her Black Panther of all things, as she's more than qualified to direct any of Marvel's movies, but it would have been a start, at least.

Black Panther opens in theaters on July 6, 2018.

Via THR.
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Why Ava DuVernay Turned Down The Black Panther Movie Opportunity