[UPDATE: Morris Chestnut has clarified that he's NOT in talks to play Black Panther. Scroll down for details.]
With momentum building for all of Marvel's headlining acts, it's a bit of a surprise to see Black Panther grabbing headlines. While production on the character's standalone movie had apparently slowed to make way for direct tie-in films post-Avengers, the newest rumors hint that not only is Black Panther going to be hitting the big screen soon, but Marvel may already have an actor in mind for the role.
Actor Morris Chestnut (Kick-Ass 2, The Call) has appeared online recently claiming the need to get familiar with T'Challa, the King of Wakanda, and going so far as to tease that a role in The Avengers 2 (2015) is still being considered.
Take this rumor with a MAJOR grain of salt for now, since there is little to go on besides Chestnut's comments, and those following Marvel rumors and updates know this is not typically how the studio does things.
Generally word of a film on the horizon will slip, a long list of actors being tested is constructed then narrowed down, with all involved dropping hints or teases throughout the process.
Though Marvel has yet to even confirm that a Black Panther movie is still a priority for 'Phase Two' and 'Phase Three,' Chestnut got the ball rolling via his own Twitter account just yesterday, tweeting the following message with a link to the below image posted on his Facebook page:
"It's time to get familiar with the Black Panther character!"
The tweet alone sparked speculation, even though Chestnut didn't specify whether his comments were motivated by casting, being contacted by Marvel, his agent, or for a completely separate Marvel property. The presence of the Avengers cast on the comic cover hinted that he had Marvel's films in mind, but TV shows like Avengers Assemble! were just as possible.
Luckily, when one of his Twitter followers expressed excitement to see the Black Panther film finally move into production, Chestnut put the mystery to rest:
"Not final. #BlackPanther may be in #avengers2 first. RT @jamaal91604133: @morris_chestnut Can't wait to see this movie. #BlackPanther"
Unsurprisingly, after confirming that it was The Avengers 2 he was discussing and nothing else, the tweets and image were deleted. The second tweet is somewhat ambiguous, either claiming that the Black Panther movie is not yet final, or his being cast in the role. Either way, the fact that Chestnut has since deleted both pieces of evidence lends some credence to the theory that Marvel has told him to stay silent for now.
Even though it's easy to look at these comments as a confirmation that Marvel is at least planning to feature Black Panther in one of their films - with Chestnut interested in playing the role - there's nothing so far to corroborate Chestnut's claims. For all we know, he might simply be campaigning for the role before it's announced (like some other actors we could think of), and has come up with a much more effective way of getting people talking. At this point, it's working.
There's no question that T'Challa is one Marvel character we'd love to see in Avengers 2, but fans will now have to ask if Chestnut is among their top choices for the role. So far the studio hasn't shied away from older actors, but with the youngest stars (Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and the newly-added Anthony Mackie) handling the 'physical threat' department, an almost 50-year-old actor playing the agile and gymnastic fighter is a bit of a stretch.
We'd recommend cautious optimism at this point, at least until another source close to Marvel confirms that Black Panther is playing a larger role in Avengers discussions. But while we're at it, who do you see bringing the character to life? A younger, athletic unknown, or an established and recognizable black actor like Morris Chestnut or Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje?
UPDATE: In a somewhat strange turn of events, Morris Chestnut has now tweeted that he's NOT in talks to play Black Panther in The Avengers 2. Check out the tweet below:
— Morris Chestnut (@Morris_Chestnut) April 10, 2013
It's difficult to tell if Chestnut has some insider information about Black Panther appearing in The Avengers 2 - despite not being "in talks to play" the character - or if this was all just wishful thinking on his part. We'll have to wait for some legitimate Avengers 2 news to know for sure.
We'll keep you updated on Black Panther and the rest of Marvel's 'Phase Two' properties as news arrives.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
Source: Morris Chestnut (1, 2)