Black Panther's astounding success was the result of a Wakandan-sized effort, but undoubtably one of its most important players was Nate Moore. A key Marvel producer who's worked directly on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War and now Black Panther, Moore has had a major hand in shaping the MCU so far and will be even more important going forward.
For the home video release of Black Panther, we set down with Moore to talk how the movie came together out of the wreckage of Civil War, how its success affected Avengers: Infinity War and future Wakandan plans, and where the MCU is heading after next year's Avengers 4.
Screen Rant: I wanted to start by going right back. One thing that you hear a lot about with Marvel now is how you really allow the directors to come in and define the movie. Marvel has an idea of what it wants from a project, but a director can come in and reshape it in so many ways. What was Black Panther shaping up to be in the earlier stages before Ryan Coogler came on, and what were the big things in the finished movie that he directly instigated?
Nate More: Yeah, I think for us, with Panther, we knew we wanted to explore the world of Wakanda and T'Challa coming home after the events of Civil War and having to lead for the first time. That was our basic tenant, and within there we had some details about characters like W'Kabu and Okoye and M'Baku that we knew we wanted to be a part of it. I think what Ryan brought was the Killmonger component and the notion of what it means to be to African-American versus what it means to be African. All that stuff we hadn't really talked about and one of the first things he pitched that first day he came into our offices was using Killmonger as a lens to look at... look at that dynamic, frankly. And I think that was helpful in opening up the film to be able to talk about bigger themes than we had even considered. I also think another thing that was intrinsically Ryan was just the amount of very strong female characters in the film. We talked about Okoye, we talked a bit about Shuri, but Nakia was somebody that Ryan really pushed for and developed into a huge part of what the movie ultimately is. And even exploring T'Challa's relationship with Ramonda, which I think in the books is typically, I would argue, a bit under-serviced, and in the film is one of four very strong relationships that T'Challa has with the female characters in the film. So, that stuff is very much in Ryan's DNA. And even Wakanda, by the way, which we'd talked about and knew we wanted to explore, the depth and the detail that Ryan wanted to instill in that and really figure ways to ground it in real-world contexts that would make it feel like a real place and not... our biggest fear collectively was Wakanda feeling like a fictional place like Asgard, something that is not of this world. I think Ryan went above and beyond to make sure that the details of Wakanda were grounded so that the places all felt like they could actually exist on Earth.
SR: It's interesting you talk about Wakanda because that is such a big part of Black Panther and we obviously got to revisit it so soon after in Infinity War - just a few months later. And that movie's helped by being produced concurrently - there's obviously a lot of sharing of information going along - but one thing I wanted to ask is how you guys envision Wakanda having changed since Black Panther - as you say, it's set just after Civil War, so there's been a whole two years of development that we don't get much chance to see a lot of in Infinity War. Did you guys work on how Wakanda's evolved since he opened it up to the world?
NM: We talked a bit about it. Unfortunately, just because of the timeline of the storytelling in Infinity War, I don't think you get to feel that, frankly. You know, I think there is more story left on the table than what they were able to put in the finished film, which is unfortunate. I think the good news is as we continue to explore Wakanda in future films, there's a ton of story that we've talked about internally that we can blow out and do really cool things with. So, it's definitely not the last you'll see of Wakanda, and now it's just one component of the story that we'll fit in with other storytelling as we tell this larger tapestry of the universe.
SR: This was big deal, especially in the lead up to release: the four-hour cut. Which isn't a big deal for most movies - assembly cuts exist - but what's interesting is that this one was scored. Could you elaborate a little on that longer version you were playing with and if we could ever see a longer version of Black Panther released?
NM: Yeah, Ryan's director's cut was long. It was interesting - even in the scriptwriting process, we knew that the piece of material that we shot had some scenes that wouldn't make it into the final cut just because of the ambition of the story that Ryan wanted to tell. So, the four-hour cut was literally everything in the film that was shot assembled in a way that obviously had the bones of the final film but had some additional things, some of which are in the DVD extras that people can explore. I don't think, ultimately, we would do an extended cut because a lot of times what happens with those early cuts is you don't finish the visual effects, you don't finish the sound, so there is no pristine four-hour cut that ever existed quite frankly. Even the score that had been temped in by Ludwig, who started very early on - almost earlier than we'd ever started a composer before - it was his music but not his final version of the music, so all of that stuff exists in a very imperfect state. The other truth about how we make films here which I think is smart is if there are ideas or scenes or notions that could work in other films that maybe were in this cut, what we want to do is save them for a rainy day because you never know when a great scene or a great idea can be used in another film. So, sometimes there are things we'll never show audiences because we know we can repurpose them in another film.
Black Panther's Relationship To Civil War and Infinity War
SR: One cool thing I love that Marvel's doing at the moment is that we have so many movies coming out of Civil War. Black Panther obviously takes place straight after the death of T'Chaka, but so does Homecoming, from the trailer I gather Ant-Man & the Wasp does, and even Infinity War, even though it's set a little bit later, the effects of Civil War on the characters and the way it's split the Avengers is still really there. When you were making Captain America 3, how aware were you that this movie was going to become a lynchpin of the entirety of Phase 3? Why did this movie suddenly become "the one"?
NM: Yeah, it's interesting. I would say we hadn't planned on the ramifications of Civil War rippling so far into those other films, but what's cool working at Marvel and telling these big stories is a lot of times there will be a decision that is made for the best of one film that other films are forced to adjust to and that just opens up creative pathways that otherwise you wouldn't have thought of. For instance, in Civil War, the notion of the Avengers breaking up and half of them being fugitives wasn't something that other films necessarily had taken into consideration until after that film was finished. And then you go, OK, so Ant-Man now is on the run, well that's going to change how we approach developing Ant-Man & the Wasp, and luckily we have enough time to adjust to make sure that that story then can be a spinoff of what's happened before. So, a lot of times, creative decisions are made for what's best for the movie that's happening right away, and the other films are forced to adjust, but are given enough time to adjust to make sure that those films get to be as good as they can be. I think the reason why Civil War did have such a big ripple, honestly, was just because the sheer amount of characters were involved and thus were touched by it. Again, I would love to say there was a grand plan that when we started Civil War we knew it was going to do X-Y-Z. The truth is we just tried to make the best Civil War film we could and then went, "OK, so if that is true, then if people seem to be digging that, what does that mean then for all of these standalone films?" We tried to answer those questions as best we could.
SR: Was there anything specific with Civil War that directly affected Black Panther?
NM: I know for a fact that the events of Civil War threw Ryan for a loop. As a fan of the comics, he has said multiple times one of the interesting things about T'Challa was that he was a young king. In the comics, Klaue kills T'Challa's father when he's almost a pre-teen, and in Civil War we tell the story that T'Chaka was alive and well through T'Challa becoming a man, essentially. That changed how Ryan approached writing the character with Joe Robert Cole, because a King who's had to learn over 20 years how to rule, and am older King who's just coming into power for the first time is a big character difference and I think forced Ryan to think about the character in a new way that ultimately is good, but I think initially was a bit of a shock. One of the first things, when we did when we hired Ryan, was show him the cut of Civil War. He loved it, but that was his first takeaway - "T'Chaka was alive? Uh-oh!" So, I think, again, that's sort of the fun, creative corners we like to throw ourselves just to figure out how to get out of it, frankly.
SR: Talking about Civil War and the Black Panther presence, obviously he was introduced in that movie and then got his own solo movie. One thing we're seeing with the next set of movies - Ant-Man & the Wasp and Captain Marvel - is the debut of Wasp and of Carol Danvers are being held for their movies. How do you feel about the difference between having a solo movie introducing a character and then a character being introduced within the bigger Avengers setup and then spinning off? And would you have liked to have done it different with Panther?
NM: Well, it's interesting because we typically are more comfortable introducing characters in a standalone movie first. That tended to be how Marvel operated until Civil War; that was really the first time we introduced new characters - in Black Panther and Spider-Man - that we knew we were doing standalone films for. So, that actually was more of the thing we had to get used to than the notion of doing Wasp and Captain Marvel in their own films. I think the upside of introducing characters in their own films is you get a lot more time with that character, so it's easier to build sympathy and understanding of the characters because you spend two hours with them. One of the challenges of Civil War, especially for Panther I would argue more than Spider-Man, is allowing audiences to understand who he is and how he works in the very short amount of screen time that he has. Spider-Man's a bit easier because I think just culturally he's somebody that people kind of have a general understanding; you don't have to get too much into his origin, you just meet this kid and you very quickly understand his dynamic with his Aunt and the notion of where he got his powers is almost played as a joke, right? For Panther, the challenge and our biggest worry honestly was giving enough details about the character and about Wakanda to intrigue audiences and allow them to enjoy his performance in that film without having so many questions that they can't enjoy it. But we knew we wanted to hold back a lot of that detail for a standalone movie. So, I think the Captain Marvel and Wasp examples are a bit more business as usual, but it's not to say that any one way is the right or wrong way. I do think, though, for standalone films it is a bit easier if you haven't met them before, because you get to tell the whole story in one go.
SR: On the flipside of what you're saying with Civil War and Black Panther coming in as a lesser known hero as he was at the time, going into Infinity War, his next team up, the movie had become this unimaginable smash hit. How do you feel the success of Black Panther influenced his perception in Infinity War, and do you wish you'd been able to do anything differently knowing now that this movie spoke to so many people?
NM: Yeah. [laughs] That's a great question. The truth is, yes, of course. [laughs]. We knew he was going to be in Infinity War and actually had talked with Joe and Anthony [Russo] very early on, and they had got really excited about placing a good chunk of that film in Wakanda. But, having an idea how big an impact he would I have, I think Joe and Anthony, Chris and Steve - Markus and McFeely - would have approached writing that character a bit differently, and probably I think figured out how to explore the world of Wakanda a beat or two more. The truth is, in Infinity War, there's so much going on as you know, that there's not a ton of time to stop and smell the roses, but... Panther turned into this cultural touchstone, that I think given our druthers we would go back and figure out ways to sweeten this time we do spend in Wakanda in the film a bit more. Especially, I think, for T'Challa - give him a couple more key beats or scenes, just because he means so much to people so quickly, which again we didn't anticipate. We knew we could make a great Panther movie, but we obviously had no idea how big an impact it would have.
The Future Of The Black Panther Franchise
SR: Moving to the Black Panther plans going forward, Screen Rant talked to you on set about the sequels and the plans to bring these characters over into other brands. Now Black Panther is this cultural touchstone, as you say, does this change any of the original plans you had when making the film, and does it fast-track anything?
NM: I guess it - honestly - didn't. Look, we always hope and assume that there will be more stories to tell in any of our franchises. I think because of how well Panther did with audiences, it definitely reaffirmed what we already knew and the storytelling in Infinity War is and would always be the same. I think what it's shown is that Panther as a franchise is more than the character, and that's not to say that T'Challa isn't important, but the world of Wakanda and that supporting cast - Okoye, Shuri, Nakia, M'Baku - they're all really compelling in their own right. So, if anything, it's proved there's even more story than we thought to be told there, and I think as we start to think what is possible with a sequel to Panther... one thing I like to tell Ryan is, the Black Panther is a mantle as much as it is a person, so we're not retricted by anything, because the truth is, there's a lot of different ways to go back to Wakanda and have a good time and continue to explore the themes that made the first film so resonant.
SR: And with these characters who knew were going to resonate but then did so much more, was there any that particularly hit bigger than you expected? I was really blown away by M'Baku and just how different he was to the comics and just everything I expected from him. Was there any that you felt impacted people like that en masse?
NM: Yeah. I think M'Baku was a surprise to everyone. He was a character even in initial conversations Ryan very rightly had some reservations about because even just the name "Man-Ape" is offensive in the wrong context, but figuring out a way into his world and to him as a character beyond the iconography that was in the books I think was really special, and Winston Duke is such a great performer that again in a very short time I think he becomes iconic. But the other two characters we figured would hit but didn't realize the breadth of which they would were Okoye and Shuri. For different reasons. Danai Guerra as Okoye is someone I think people really walked away loving, even though she has a very tricky function in that film, right? Because she makes a decision that ends up being wrong and ultimately has to make up for it. And Shuri, look, we knew casting T'Challa's little sister who's the smartest person in Wakanda had the potential to be a breakout and you hope it's a breakout, and the truth is Letitia Wright brings such a special energy to that character that even other filmmakers on other franchises were like "Hey, can we put Shuri in our film?" Because she's so fun and so funny and so vibrant, and that's hard to find in a character.
SR: Is that something you're open to? We've talked about the world of Wakanda and growing that, but would you be open to having the characters spread out? So, instead of it being the Black Panther franchise within the framework, it's more integrated in a crossover sense?
NM: Yes, we're absolutely open to that. I think one thing we talk a lot about is making sure that creatively there's a great reason for any of our characters to end up in another film so it doesn't just feel like... pandering is the wrong word, but doing it just because she's popular. We would do it if we had a great story reason, because I think that would be really additive, but ultimately I think if we loan people out too frequently without a good reason to do so, it's actually going to hurt their value because we're not going to be expanding what makes the character interesting. And that I goes in general for all our characters: how do you tell these stories if they are in little or big chunks of other films, how do you continue to explore them as characters so that when you see them again in their own films, it feels like there's been a progression and not just a cameo. Sometimes cameos are great and I think Nick Fury's the best version of that, but we only really want to loan out characters who have their own franchises in cameos if it forwards their own story. I think the best version of that is Ant-Man in Civil War, right, where we got to take the character a step forward. When we come back to Ant-Man & the Wasp you'll see that Scott Lang is in a much different place at the end of Ant-Man.
Where Marvel Is Heading In Phase 4
SR: Talking about developing these characters - and all these characters across the MCU - one of the things I really like is how the stories are built on the characters the MCU has put forward. The Tony Stark that we've followed for ten years is the Tony Stark that Robert Downey, Jr. plays. It's inspired by the comics, but you allows the character he's become to grow. Looking at that, and looking at Black Panther especially, is really interesting - you've talked about changes to T'Challa's age, to Man-Ape, Killmonger had changes made to him. People try and use the comics as a real roadmap, predicting what's going to happen, and you do stuff like Thanos' finger snap which is from the comics but very different. How beholden do you feel to the comics, and how much do you feel free to crib anything and go in any direction?
NM: Yeah, I think the greatness is our source material is really good, but it doesn't mean it should stop us from telling a story if we think we have a better way to approach it. I think Thanos is a great example of it. In the comics, he's doing everything for the love of Death as personified by a woman with a skeleton face. We didn't feel like that was the best version of the character to show audiences that aren't as indoctrinated with how comics are written, and we knew we could tell something that hopefully felt more compelling. So, in general, we look at the comics as roadmap, but we know that our fans and especially fans of comics, will be happier if we make changes that are thematically resonant to the character and different in the comics than they would be if we just gave them what exactly was on the page but it wasn't as good. So I think our fans just want to tell these great stories about the characters they love, more than they want exactly what happened in issue 501. And that's freeing because I think a lot of times, even initially, writers and directors will come in feeling they're handcuffed a bit by what happened in the books. And the truth is, the books are a great starting place, but it really is to your point what makes sense for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and make sense for these characters as individuals and playing the characters to the top of their intelligence and making sure their world feels grounded and real and realistic, even as we talk about heightened concepts like Asgard and Knowhere and Thanos. Making sure it's as good as possible to us is more important than making sure it is faithful to the comics.
SR: Looking forward. Phase 3 is sort of ending next summer with Avengers 4 - at the very least that's the culmination as we've been told - and that kind of gives the whole universe a fresh start. What are you most excited about post-Avengers 4 in terms of freeing opportunities?
NM: I think it's an opportunity for us to bid a fond farewell to characters that we've come to know for a while, but to also then introduce characters who are going to feel completely new and hopefully surprising to both our core fans and fans of our movies who aren't as well-versed in publishing. There are great ideas out there that we've talked about internally that I think and I hope will be surprising and refreshing to audiences while we still continue to explore characters we've come to love. The new ones always feel really exciting because they can be anything. We're at the point now where we're blue-skying, what are the best stories to tell, and in that blue sky there are ideas that I think all of us get really excited to share with people.
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