Citing it as an example of “how times have changed,” actor Derek Luke mentioned in an interview with MTV’s Splash Page Blog that he has “heard” Will Smith has been offered the role of Captain America in Marvel Studio’s planned The First Avenger: Captain America and the superhero team-up film The Avengers, both set for the summer of 2011.
Smith’s name joins those of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey and Brad Pitt who have been brandied about to play the Marvel Comics hero. Of course, it should be immediately clear that Smith is an odd choice to play the chisel-jawed, blond Captain America.
MTV points out that characters have changed color before with the casting of Samuel L. Jackson as the white spymaster Nick Fury for the coda scene in this past summer’s Iron Man. Anyone with even only a passing familiarity of what Marvel is publishing these days can tell you that in their “Ultimate” imprint, which takes place in a separate/alternate continuity/universe from the main Marvel titles, Fury is indeed a black man whose look was modeled on Jackson. A better analogy would have been the casting of Michael Clarke Duncan as the crimeboss Kingpin in 2003’s Daredevil with Ben Affleck. The important thing about Kingpin was his size and presence, both of which Duncan brought to the role.
However, while I have no qualms about changing a character’s race to match the actor best suited for a role, I think in this case, it would be an idea that would not make much sense. Marvel Studios honcho Kevin Feige has stated that the Captain America film would be a period piece, set in World War II. And lets face it, America in the 1940s was an America that was highly segregated. Even in the Army, there were black-only regiments up until President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, establishing the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services. Even then, it took until 1954 before the last all-black unit in the Army was disbanded. Given the prevailing culture in the military at the time, I do not see a black soldier being chosen for a project like the Super Soldier experiment that created Captain America.
Of course, this is real world logic being applied to a movie, something that Hollywood is not always known for doing. On a more practical level though, Smith currently has 18 projects listed as In Development on the IMDb, so he has plenty of projects to choose from already. Smith is also used to having a certain amount of creative control in his films, something Marvel may be loathe to give up. Even though he is still one of the biggest box office draws in Hollywood, is Marvel willing to meet his usual salary demands?
We’ll just have to wait for Marvel to make an announcement. When that will happen is, as of now, anyones guess. However, since they still have released any details about summer 2010’s Thor movie, it should be quite a while yet.