MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Idris Elba almost starred in a “Luke Cage” film.
Like a number of other Marvel properties, including Daredevil, the first character to get his own Marvel Netflix television series, Luke Cage’s rights were tied up for a number of years with a film studio trying to make a film version of the character. Unlike Daredevil and other Netflix characters like Elektra and Punisher, there never was a “Luke Cage” film. However, just how far did that process get? Was it far enough that they had actually cast “The Wire” and “Luther” star Idris Elba as Luke Cage?
Read on to find out!
When projects are in development, it is difficult to pin down whether anything is actually confirmed. That was the basis behind the legend about OJ Simpson originally being cast the Terminator in “The Terminator” (plans that supposedly fell through because no one would buy OJ as a killer) – that things were so preliminary that practically anyone could say anything that they wanted. We’ve seen that happen a lot in the past with the casting of famous roles in films such as “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz”, where so many people were considered that nearly anyone could say that they were in consideration for the lead roles (casting of Dorothy even led to a legend about actors being “traded” to get Shirley Temple to play the role).
“Luke Cage” was first developed as a movie in 2003 when Columbia Pictures optioned the character for a film. Ben Ramsey, who wrote the film “The Big Hit,” was hired to write the screenplay. Ramsey’s script was a straightforward, yet updated, version of Luke Cage’s comic book origin story. A street hustler who was framed and sent to prison, Carl Lucas volunteered for an experiment that left him with super-strength and believed to be dead. He ended up back at Harlem, where his former love, Reva, is now with Lucas’ former friend, Willis Stryker (who becomes the villainous Diamondback). In a hilarious bit of metafiction, Lucas takes the name Luke Cage after seeing a Nicolas Cage film on a theater marquee (Cage famously took his stage name from Luke Cage). Luke then became a hero for hire, decked out in a yellow tracksuit, sunglasses and a chain around his neck.
Famed director John Singleton was attached to the project, as was actor Tyrese Gibson. However, Singleton made a few things clear a few years later when asked about both the film and Gibson’s involvement. First, about Gibson: “I told him he ain’t getting it unless he works out, I was like ‘you need to work out’ to make sure you get it. Actually my dream team is to do it with Tyrese and Terence Howard will be the villain. Terence to play Diamondback with the snake eyes.” And secondly, as to whether the film would even end up coming together, “I don’t know what’s happening with the studio. I’m not going to do it unless I do it the way I want to do it.”
Obviously, it didn’t end up going the way that Singleton wanted, because it never actually came out.
The project just sort of sputtered along for a number of years after that. Interestingly enough, though, Idris Elba was approached at one point by Columbia. He told the Huffington Post:
I don’t really have any superhero that I like. There was talk about Luke Cage at one time — I thought Luke Cage was a pretty interesting character. They were going to do it, but I don’t know what happened…
In May 2013, Marvel got the rights back from Columbia, and while they were approached by some people to consider the character for a film, it appears as though Marvel was already committed to the television idea, as the TV plan was announced just five months after they got the rights. Isaiah Mustafa, the fellow from the Old Spice commercials, expressed interest in playing Luke Cage back in 2011 in a meeting with Marvel, but they did not have the rights to Cage at the time.
So were we ever really close enough to an Idris Elba “Luke Cage” film to go with a true here? It doesn’t appear so, no, so I’m going with the legend as…
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