Superman is about to go through a big change. THR is reporting, in an extensive article on the future of DC Films, that Warner Bros. is actively searching for a Black director and Black actor to lead Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Superman movie. The move comes as DC is putting the final nails in the Snyderverse with the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League and the upcoming multiverse-establishing The Flash.
In February the studio tapped Ta-Nehisi Coates to write a new Superman film for the burgeoning DC multiverse, with J.J. Abrams producing. Rumors swirled that Abrams would direct, but it appears he is not going to as the studio searches for a Black director to helm the Black-led film. One of THR’s sources called having Abrams direct the movie “tone-deaf,” which isn’t untrue.
A final decision on director is a long, long way off with Coates still working on the screenplay that isn’t due until December, but THR says the list includes Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II), J.D. Dillard (Sweet Heart), Regina King (One Night in Miami), and Shaka King, the last of whom is receiving interest from WB for his Oscar noms for Judas and the Black Messiah. There are also more established directors in consideration including Barry Jenkins or Ryan Coogler, who would be the third director (after Joss Whedon and James Gunn) to direct both a Marvel and DC film if he landed the role. However, simultaneously, many of these same directors are on Marvel’s shortlist to direct Blade, so they could land gigs in both universes at the same time.
For the casting, don’t necessarily expect a big name. Michael B. Jordan, who had previously pitched a Black Superman movie to WB, says he’s simply “watching” this one, and Warner Bros. has previously cast relatively unknown actors twice already with Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill. It’s once again a case of the character being bigger than any actor who would jump into the role and DC.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is still early in the story of this Black Superman film, and there are a variety of options on the table. However, at the moment it appears to be yet another origin story with Superman coming to Earth from the planet Krypton, potentially “a 20th century period piece.” The recasting of Superman as Black would, without a doubt, recast the character’s entire origin story. Growing up Black in a small Kansas town in 20th century America is drastically different from growing up white, though the strong moral themes could still run through easily. WB isn’t shying away from the topics and themes that might raise and is actively working to diversify its superhero portfolio with films like the upcoming Blue Beetle and a gay Green Lantern (Alan Scott) coming to HBO Max’s new show.
Whatever the film’s eventual plotline is, it doesn’t look like it will be part of the shared universe that Zack Snyder kicked off. This Superman, for now, seems to be much akin to Robert Pattinson’s The Batman, taking place in a separate universe in an ever-expanding DC multiverse.