When Marvel corralled the press into Los Angeles’ El Capitan Theatre last October and revealed their film schedule going all the way into 2019, the awesome info dump was actually overshadowed by the on-stage unveiling of their Black Panther star, Chadwick Boseman. Studio president, Kevin Feige, reveals how keeping a lid on this valuable secret was actually not all that difficult.
With that grand event nearly a year in the rear view mirror, Feige is a little more candid about the Black Panther casting process in an interview with Vulture. While the imagination might lead one to think the selection of Boseman was the result of an intricate, resource-heavy casting process that oversaw several A-list actors, it apparently was more of a demonstration in spontaneity. According to Feige:
We just called Chadwick. He was the only choice. He had just done the red carpet, and instead of going into the theater he went back into his car because we had a call scheduled with him, and we said, 'Have you ever heard of this character Black Panther, and do you want to do it?' And he said, 'Yes!' and it was done.
One of key elements for the secret’s success was the spur-of-the-moment nature of Black Panther’s inclusion in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. Working on a draft with the others in the creative brain trust, Feige thought that the film, which will see former friends Steve Rogers/Captain America and Tony Stark/Iron Man collide over ideological differences to a crucial law affecting costumed heroes needed the fresh, objective perspective of a third party; essentially someone new to the continuity. Thus, after a brief thought process, the idea was quickly conceived to debut Black Panther in the 2016 Captain America threequel.
On September 25, 2014, Boseman learned the fateful news from Marvel that he would play T'Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, the prince-turned-king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, a role several black actors had been clamoring to play over the years. The actor happened to be in Switzerland attending a red carpet premiere of Get On Up, in which he played the late, great singer, James Brown. However, rather than heading into the theater, he made a beeline to the more conducive atmosphere of his car, where he took the scheduled call from Marvel informing him that he landed the role of all roles, and accepted what would eventually become a five-film deal.
It turned out that only a brief month of secrecy and deceptive interview answers were required until the October 28 unveiling that left Marvel fans ecstatic and competitors desperately scrambling to change release dates. Boseman took the stage of the El Capitan alongside Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., standing between the actors as they engaged in an impromptu game of rock-paper-scissors. In its own unique way, the scene revealed more about the film’s dynamic than any press release. Feige and Marvel had essentially pulled off one of the most definitive publicity capers of all time.
We’ll see Chadwick Boseman slip on the fearsome suit and sharpen his claws when Black Panther makes his debut in Captain America: Civil War on May 6, 2016. From there, he takes the solo spotlight when Black Panther pounces punks from the jungle trees on July 6, 2018.