Created in 1966, Black Panther was the first black superhero in mainstream comics, and when Marvel Studios releases a movie based on the character in 2018, it will mark the first in the company’s interconnected cinematic universe to be headlined by an actor of color (Chadwick Boseman).
At a time when Hollywood is striving to diversify its storytelling, many fans and observers have called for Marvel to hire a black director for Black Panther, and the studio has met with at least one high-profile African-American filmmaker: Ava DuVernay circled the project but ultimately passed, saying she and Marvel “had different ideas about what the story would be.”
Now Anthony Mackie, the actor who plays one of Marvel’s most visible big-screen black heroes in the Falcon, has weighed in on whether race should factor in to finding a director for Black Panther.
“I don’t think it’s important at all,” Mackie said in an interview with the Daily Beast. “As a director your job is to tell a story. You know, they didn’t get a horse to direct Seabiscuit!”
He continued, “The thing is I don’t think the race of the director has to do with their ability to tell a story. I think it’s all about the director’s ability to be able to relate to that story and do it justice. I think men can direct women, and two of my greatest work experiences were with female directors. So I think it all depends. May the best man — or woman — win.”
The conversation about how writers, producers, and directors of color bring essential perspective to stories featuring characters of similar backgrounds has picked up in Hollywood over the last few years.
“I think if you have to think diversity as math and as a problem to solve, you’re thinking about it the wrong way,” DuVernay told EW earlier this year. “That’s the way that a lot of folks look at it within the industry: ‘These are boxes I need to check.’ Hollywood really sidesteps a deeper issue about the question of ‘Why shouldn’t all of us be reflected?’ and ‘Why shouldn’t there be more than one voice?’ Until you can answer those questions from a place that’s not about math, I think we’ll continue to have disingenuous attempts that don’t really work.”
More recently, Empire co-creator Lee Daniels said during a Vanity Fair panel that TV shows without diverse writers’ rooms are “bulls‑‑‑.” He added that as a black director himself, “I could never assume that I could do Schindler’s List. It’s so brilliantly done by [Steven Spielberg]. I could never assume to jump in to The Godfather.”