With $1.3 billion in box office receipts, the financial success of “Black Panther” now seems like a foregone conclusion. But producer Nate Moore told The Hollywood Reporter today (December 19) that things didn’t start out that way for the film, which centers a Black cast and Black creators.
“People go, ‘Well, what’s come before?’” Nate Moore says. “ ‘It’ll make roughly that [amount], so we’ll invest in that.’ Because [tentpole movies with Black casts] aren’t getting made, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. ‘What are you modeling? You didn’t release anything in China. Who knows if China likes Black people or not?’”
“Black Panther” ultimately debunked the idea that Black films don’t perform well in the United States and abroad. Moore, who is Marvel Studios’ vice president of development and its lone Black producer, worked behind the scenes to make sure Ryan Coogler’s movie had a chance to prove itself. He explains the pressure and the process of bringing Coogler on board:
When “Black Panther” went on to gross $1.3 billion at the global box office this year, more than $100 million of that from China, Moore and his colleagues disproved one of Hollywood’s most damaging, untested rules—that international audiences would spurn such an offering. The stakes were high, Moore recalls: “If this film does not work, it will become a reason to not make films like this. Because, man, if Marvel, which opens movies with a raccoon and a tree, can’t open ‘Black Panther,’ hey, I guess these movies don’t travel.”
In 2013, Moore and screenwriter Joe Robert Cole watched director Ryan Coogler’s feature debut, about Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old African American shot by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer in 2009. The movie, Fruitvale Station, was “such an intentionally emotional experience, I was like, ‘Who is that filmmaker?’”
Moore went on to enlist Coogler to work with Cole on the “Black Panther” script. And the exec backed the director’s expansive vision for the fictional nation of Wakanda, even as the budget increased from $150 million to $200 million because of the ambitious Afrofuturist sets by Hannah Beachler and costumes by Ruth E. Carter.
Read more about Moore’s moves at HollywoodReporter.com.