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5 Actors Who Could Play Marvel's 'Black Panther'

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist June 6, 2012 at 11:19AM

For all their success so far, the Marvel movies have, aside from a few smallish parts, been a pretty lilywhite affair to date: only Samuel L Jackson was a significant minority presence in "The Avengers." But signs are that the studio aren't going to keep that up for too long: yesterday, it was reported that the company are actively moving ahead with a movie about "Black Panther," the African prince-turned-crimefighter, and are targeting a release in 2014 or 2015.

David Oyelowo
David Oyelowo
Why He Could Do It: A near-contemporary of Ejiofor at drama school LAMDA, Oyelowo didn't come out of the gates quite so immediately, at least as far as Hollywood casting directors were concerned, but he's certainly on the rise. After breaking out in the U.K. as Henry VI on stage, and on TV in "Spooks" (or "M:I-5" in the U.S.), Oyelowo got a decent role (after false starts in "A Sound Of Thunder" and "Derailed") as a key supporting part in "The Last King Of Scotland." It was seemingly that performance that led Lee Daniels to cast him in the plum part of Martin Luther King in "Selma," which certainly got his name out there, even if the film is still yet to happen. He was a part of two big hits last year, with supporting turns in "The Help" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," and has even more on the way. He finally teamed with Daniels on "The Paperboy" and the upcoming "The Butler," plays Ira Clark in Spielberg's "Lincoln," and backs up Tom Cruise in "Jack Reacher." He's only getting more and more famous, and getting to show more and more of his considerable acting skills, so he could be a strong choice.
Why He Might Not: As well as he's been doing of late, George Lucas' "Red Tails" is his only real lead to date, and Marvel could be nervous about him carrying a film on his shoulders (although they shouldn't be). Age might also be an issue as well. He's 36, and would be pushing 40 by the time "Black Panther" hits theaters. Again, if we're going to see T'Challa becoming the Black Panther after his father's death, Oyelowo's age may put him out of reach.

Anthony Mackie
Anthony Mackie
Why He Could Do It: Mackie's been walking away with scenes since "Half Nelson" half a decade ago, but since "The Hurt Locker" in 2009, the 32-year-old actor -- like Ejiofor and Oyelowo, a stage veteran -- has been virtually inescapable.  In the last year or so, he's played key roles in "The Adjustment Bureau," "What's Your Number?," "Real Steel," "Ten Year" and "Man On A Ledge," suggesting there's virtually nothing he can't do, and he'll be just as busy in the coming year, with "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," "Gangster Squad," "Pain & Gain" and "Runner Runner" all on the way. It's this summer's double-bill of 'Abe Lincoln' and "Gangster Squad" that promises to give him a big lift, letting him show off his action skills, and hopefully exposing him to a wider audience than ever before. We can also seem him fitting in seamlessly with the rest of "The Avengers" ensemble (which includes his "Hurt Locker" co-star Jeremy Renner), probably more so than the other choices here.
Why He Might Not: All that being said, he's fallen into something of a rut of sidekicks and FBI agents of late, and Marvel may be more comfortable with him in a supporting role than as a lead, although they'd be wrong. He's also got a leaner, more angular look than the character is traditionally depicted with, though that's probably not a deal-breaker if Marvel think he's the right man for the job. He's certainly got the range for the part, and the company could do a lot worse.

Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman
Why He Could Do It: Not a familiar face just yet, Boseman's best known at this point for TV gigs on ABC Family's "Lincoln Heights" and NBC's "Persons Unknown," aside from a small part in sports biopic "The Express." But that should change in the next year with Brian Helgeland choosing him to play the iconic role of Jackie Robinson in "42," opposite Harrison Ford and Nicole Beharie. It's the kind of part that could be a star-maker, if the film works, and he'll certainly be on more casting lists from now on. He's got a great look for the part, and from what we have seen of his TV work ("Fringe," "Justified"), he's a strong actor, with an athletic build. And with a side career as a playwright, he could easily sell the fierce intelligence that makes T'Challa one of the smartest people in the Marvel universe.
Why He Might Not: Well, he is still a virtual unknown -- even more so than Chris Hemsworth was at the pre-"Thor" point of his career. And "42" doesn't hit until next April, and given that they're likely aiming for a 2014 release, the studio probably won't want to wait to see if the film lands at the box office. And could playing a character as iconic as Robinson, particularly when you start as an unknown, hurt more than it could help? Sports biopics have never exactly been a road to stardom -- just ask his "The Express" co-star Rob Brown.

Honorable Mentions: Even ruling out actors who've already cropped up in the Marvel movie universe (even if they would have been good choices) -- Derek Luke, Idris Elba, Don Cheadle and Terrence Howard -- there's still plenty of strong choices out there. Michael Ealy's hot off "Think Like A Man," although like Omari Hardwick, he's close to 40, so may be too old. "Chronicle" and "Friday Night Lights" star Michael B. Jordan's a better fit at 25, and he could be a very interesting call. Other younger actors who might work include Jesse Williams of "Cabin in the Woods," Nate Parker from "Red Tails," and Edi Gathegi from "X-Men First Class."

Otherwise, British actor Noel Clarke is about to get a lot more exposure thanks to "Star Trek 2," and Columbus Short has proven charismatic in the likes of "The Losers," although he's gone to TV for "Scandal" more recently. In terms of bigger names, Will Smith and Jamie Foxx are obvious ones, but they're bound to be too expensive for the oft-thrifty Marvel, and are pretty much too old anyway. For more left-field choices, there's Drake, who has plenty of acting experience thanks to "Degrassi," while some have already mentioned Donald Glover, although we'd argue that the qualities that made him an interesting prospect for Peter Parker make him wrong for this role.

This article is related to: Features, Marvel, Black Panther, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, David Oyelowo, Chadwick Boseman