Sweet Christmas, Everybody Wants to be Luke Cage


And why not? Luke Cage is one of Marvel's best characters, and also its most resilient. A character who started out as Marvel's attempt to cash in on the 70's blaxpoitation craze (and partnered with Iron Fist, who was their attempt to cash in on the 70's Bruce Lee craze), the crack dealer-punching, bulletproof hero from Harlem has come a long way since, currently serving as the leader of the New Avengers in the present Marvel comic books, playing general to the likes of Spider-man, Wolverine and Fantastic Four's The Thing.

A Luke Cage movie has long been in the making, but no one's taking the plunge, which is why people started making their own fan shorts as pitches for Marvel to consider them. I'm confident that these will not be the last of them.

The following is sort of an expensive audition reel for Eric Thomas Wilson, an actor with minimal credits whose portrayal of Cage doesn't seem to understand Cage at all. What's with the overly verbose growling narration, and Luke double-fisting pistols?

Marvel has expressed interest in making the film since 2003. He was one of the first Marvel characters whose potential was considered viable for the big screen, even before all this talk about Iron Man, Thor and The Avengers. The project was set up at Columbia Pictures, who produced the Spider-man movies, and they briefly considered casting Jamie Foxx as Cage after seeing him in Collateral. Then he won an Oscar and became a major movie star, so the studio got cold feet. Nicolas Cage is obviously a massive fan, going so far as to change his last name to Cage from the more movie-industry-ready name Nicolas Coppola, but anybody who considered him for the role promptly punched themselves in the mouth and moved on.

Columbia did hire Ben Ramsey (Dragonball: Evolution) to write the script, with John Singleton attached to direct. And then it stalled. And stalled. And stalled.

The good news is, production was delayed so long that Columbia's licensing rights to the character expired and Marvel Studios now own Luke Cage again, so they can make his movie 100% their way and perhaps even include him in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (the same thing has also happened with Punisher and Lionsgate, which I'm quite excited about).

While Marvel's still waiting for the right moment to unleash Luke Cage into the moviegoing audience, several actors have expressed interest.

In a recent podcast interview with Down the Road Show, MMA fighter and Mr. T stand-in Rampage Jackson revealed that he once talked to Marvel about playing Cage.

I actually had a meeting with Marvel a long time ago about… I don’t know if I can say that. I would love to play Luke Cage, I think I would be a perfect Luke Cage. I think I would be a very believable Luke Cage. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who would be a more believable Luke Cage than me.

While talking to Total Film last year, Idris Elba revealed that he has an ongoing picture deal with Marvel, which probably just means that they want to make sure he's contracted to appear as Heimdall again in possible Thor sequels, but when asked which Marvel hero he'd like to play, Elba gave this answer...

But erm, there's a couple of things there that they have... Luke Cage is... very interesting.

Elba then repeated the sentiment, this time more surely, during the Thor press conference earlier this year.

I’d like a stab at Luke Cage at some point.

Tyrese Gibson, who was John Singleton's first choice as Cage way back when, is still holding out hope all these years, even though Singleton may not be attached to it anymore. Talking to Rogue Network about his new movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Tyrese once again expressed his desire to be Luke Cage.

Yeah, man. I’ve been interested in that project and have been keeping my eyes on it for years. Marvel just has to make Luke Cage a priority. Marvel has to make this movie a priority, man. Everybody wants to see Luke Cage. The fans have been talking about it forever. They have to do it for the fans. I see what they are doing with Green Lantern and all these other films, that’s great but they need to step it up on Luke Cage. It’s time to get this thing going and I’m ready. I got my headband ready, my muscles are ready, and I’m ready for Luke Cage. Marvel has to get ready. Marvel has to step it up and get this movie written and done so that we can go into production on it. The time is now.

No one, however, is more passionate about it than Isaiah Mustafa. You know, the Old Spice guy. A self-professed comic book fan who was seen at Comic-Con last year walking around dressed up as the superhero Cloak, Mustafa has long been telling people—including Marvel— that he wants to be Luke Cage, as he told SuperHeroHype.

I've already had a meeting with Marvel. I talked to them and I told them that I was a gracious reader of their comics and that I wanted to be Luke Cage. So we'll see where they take it.

Not sure what a fireball has to do with Luke Cage, but okay. He looks the part, albeit a little less bulky than he probably should be.

Marvel indulged him by casting him as Cage in their jokey web series Marvel Super Heroes: What The--?!, parodying his own famous Old Spice commercials.

But that's not enough for Mustafa. He really wants to play Luke Cage in a movie, for real. So much so that back in May, he created this pitch video posed as a trailer for a film.

Another name that's being tossed around online is Michael Jai White. The film's screenwriter Ben Ramsey, who worked with him on 2009's Blood and Bone, suggested it. He's certainly got the build for it, but maybe he's not the right fit, as Luke Cage is a bit more brawler than martial arts, but after seeing Black Dynamite, I'm certainly convinced that he can do Cage's witty retorts. White seems to have a different Marvel hero in mind, however, as he keeps talking about hoping to do a Black Panther movie. Also, the last time we saw him headline a superhero movie, it... it didn't turn out so well.

So who's up for it? And more importantly, will this movie happen? I think in 2011, it would be disingenuous to say that America is still apprehensive at a black superhero. Hancock proved that wrong, but it had the benefit of having a money-printer like Will Smith in the lead. Does Luke Cage need a bigger name than any of the ones suggested above? Maybe, maybe not. Marvel certainly took risks when they banked Thor on Chris Hemsworth. Even Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr., despite their previous success, were considered left-field choices when they were announced; but they seem to be working out tremendously, with The Avengers poised to be the biggest movie of 2012 after The Dark Knight Rises.

There's definitely a demand from fans to see one, and given his status as a street-level hero, a Luke Cage movie can be done for cheap in a gritty urban setting. After all, I don't think there are a lot of CGI pimps and drug dealers in Harlem these days. A Luke Cage movie should be carried by the power of Luke Cage's charisma alone. Why? Because Luke Cage is awesome. That's why.

Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.


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