Black Panther was one of the biggest movies of 2018, and it was the first comic book movie to feature an all black cast led by a black filmmaker — the great Ryan Coogler. But despite its numerous firsts, the support the movie had from Marvel execs surprised the director. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Black Panther producer Kevin Feige revealed that Coogler thought Marvel would cut Killmonger's iconic final line about slavery. Instead, it ended up being one of the most poignant lines in the entire film.
Marvel Studios President Feige told THR about how he surprised Coogler by not only approving Killmonger's last line, but asking that it be used for inspiration to inform future drafts of the film. Feige explained that the now iconic line was in the first draft written by Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole, and described it as "one of the best lines we ever read." The producer told them that of course there would be revisions since the film was in such an early stage, but not to "touch that line." According to Feige, Coogler said, "That's the line I thought you'd tell me to cut." But the Marvel producer said, "On the contrary, keep it and build more of the movie around it."
The line itself comes after Killmonger's wounded in combat with T'Challa. The king feels for his cousin and offers to heal him. To this, Killmonger replies, "Why, so you can lock me up? Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped ships, 'cause they knew death was better than bondage."
This is, of course, what happened in the final cut, as a lot of underlying tension in the film came from the oppression of black people in America. Having this representation in a huge, blockbuster Marvel film in the form of Black Panther had been a "dream" of Feige's for a long time, according to the producer, and he said that he's been putting hints of Wakanda in the MCU as far back as Iron Man 2.
"Stan Lee and Jack Kirby 60 years ago created this character in the middle of the civil rights movement, to have a person of color from Africa come in and be wealthier, more intelligent and stronger than the primary heroes in the Marvel Universe at the time," Feige told THR. "To be able do that on the big screen and explore the world of Wakanda and see a cast of characters that is entirely people of color, that was what excited us."
From "Wakanda Forever" to being nominated for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars, Black Panther has become a cultural phenomenon that means so much to the movie's many fans. It's now become hard to imagine a world before Black Panther was a blockbuser. Despite T'Challa being in bad shape after Infinity War, Black Panther 2 is set to release as early as 2020. And if Feige's words of support are indication, this franchise will continue to inspire moviegoers for years to come.