Mahershala Ali Was Up For A DC Role Before Scoring Blade

Mahershala Ali in True Detective

One of the biggest surprises to come out of this past San Diego Comic-Con was that Mahershala Ali, who’d previously left his Marvel mark as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes on the Netflix series Luke Cage, had joined the movies side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to play Blade. However, it turns out that Ali had already had a DC role lined up before the opportunity to play the vampire hunter came his way: Commissioner James Gordon.

Yesterday, the news broke that Westworld star Jeffrey Wright is being eyed to play James Gordon in Matt ReevesThe Batman, but according to Variety reporter Justin Kroll, Mahershala Ali was previously in contention to play the character. But after Ali met with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige about playing Blade, and Feige and the MCU brass were game for the pitch, then the actor was taken out of the Gordon running.

If you have to choose between playing Commissioner Gordon and Blade, I can’t blame Mahershala Ali for picking the latter. Gordon is definitely one of the most important supporting Batman characters, but Blade is a lead role, allowing Ali to be front and center in his own movie. Plus, Ali would be only the third actor to play Blade in live action, following Wesley Snipes and Sticky Fingaz, whereas Gordon has been portrayed much more often over the decades.

So Mahershala Ali will instead lend his talents to the MCU, and while a release date hasn’t been set for the next Blade movie, presumably it will be part of the Phase Five slate. Considering that Blade is one of the gorier Marvel properties, it’ll be interesting to see how this reboot will function within the PG-13 MCU sphere, or if this franchise will finally be willing to make the jump and have this movie be its first R-rated entry. We shall see.

As for The Batman, while Jeffrey Wright isn’t officially on board yet to play James Gordon (though he’s already teasing it), given that the movie is set to begin filming early next year, we should find out relatively soon if Wright is participating in the project or not. Should he sign a deal, this will mark his second time working on a comic book adaptation, as he’ll soon be heard as Uatu the Watcher in the Disney+ animated series What If… ?

Jeffrey Wright wasn’t the only casting news concerning The Batman that came out yesterday. It was also reported that Jonah Hill is in negotiations to join the Caped Crusader’s next movie, and while it hasn’t been decided yet who he would play, supposedly it’d be either The Penguin and The Riddler. Robert Pattinson is already on board as the new Bruce Wayne, whose detective skills will be highlight in this noir-driven tale.

Jeffrey Wright and Mahershala Ali being considered to play James Gordon in The Batman hammers home that rather than be set in the DC Extended Universe and follow Ben Affleck’s Batman as a younger man, this will be a truly standalone story. Had Ben Affleck’s original version of the movie moved forward, it would have seen the Dark Knight exploring Arkham Asylum. Who knows, maybe that’ll still be a location visited in Matt Reeves’ take.

The Batman swoops into theaters on June 25, 2021, so stay tuned to CinemaBlend for updates on its development and the progression of Blade. For now, you can keep track of the rest of this year’s movies with our 2019 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.