If there was anybody in Hollywood that could give Guillermo Del Toro a run for his money when it comes to not making movies, it’s Quentin Tarantino. Both Oscar-winning filmmakers have a long history of pitches for movies – many of them sounding pretty damned awesome – that never went anywhere close to being in production. And now we can add another to Tarantino’s tally: Luke Cage.
Yes, way before Marvel finally brought the trailblazing African-American superhero to life with their Netflix series in 2015/2016, Tarantino had actually wanted a crack at the Harlem-based character. Appearing on Amy Schumer’s podcast 3 Girls, 1 Keith, Tarantino revealed that this had been a dream project for him for a long time.
There was a time before all this Marvel shit was coming out. It was after Reservoir Dogs. It was before Pulp Fiction and I had thought about doing Luke Cage. Growing up I was a big comic-book collector, and my two favorites were Luke Cage: Hero for Hire, later Luke Cage: Power Man, and Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu.
When Marvel Comics debuted the first issue of Luke Cage: Hero for Hire in 1972, the character was very much created as a reflection of the blaxploitation era of the time. This is a genre that Tarantino has worked with a fair bit (most notably with 1997’s Jackie Brown), and one he wanted to embrace fully with his cinematic version. And while Marvel definitely had echoes of that in their TV series, their modern take starring Mike Colter wasn’t quite up to Tarantino’s standards.
Well, frankly, to tell you the truth, I might be one of the pains in their asses because I love the way the character was presented so much in the ’70s. I’m not really that open to a rethinking on who he was. I just think that first issue, that origin issue… was so good, and it was really Marvel’s attempt to try to do a blaxploitation movie vibe as one of their superhero comics. And I thought they nailed it. Absolutely nailed it. So, just take that Issue 1 and put it in script form and do that. The Luke Cage: Hero for Hire era… that’s the era.
So what went wrong with Tarantino’s idea? When he was thinking of doing this in the early 1990s, there was no Marvel Cinematic Universe yet to conflict with his vision for the character. And the fact that Marvel would let New Line Cinema make Blade with Wesley Snipes just a few years later probably meant that Tarantino could have made it R-rated as well, which he probably intended. The problem was that Tarantino had a certain actor in mind to play Luke Cage, one he had idolized for years, and nobody else agreed with him.
What dissuaded me … was my comic-geek friends talked me out of it, because I had an idea that [Laurence] Fishburne would’ve been the perfect guy to play Luke Cage. But all my friends were like, ‘It’s got to be Wesley Snipes.’ And I go, ‘Look, I like Wesley Snipes, but [Laurence] Fishburne is practically Marlon Brando. I think Fish is the man.’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, but he’d have to get in shape in a big way. Snipes is that way already!’ And I go, ‘F*** that! That’s not that important! F-ck you, you ruined the whole damn thing!’
And just like that, another Quentin Tarantino project got added to the Unmade pile. Now that it’s been revealed though, I really want to see what a proper blaxploitation R-rated Quentin Tarantino take on Luke Cage starring a young Laurence Fishburne would have been like. I mean, how does that not sound amazing? Certainly sounds a whole lot more appealing than Tarantino doing an R-rated take on Star Trek!
Last Updated: April 7, 2020