Josh Trank is no stranger to controversy when it comes to his films. His take on Fantastic Four back in 2015 was met with a barrage of criticism. One particularly notorious point of contention was Trank's decision to cast Michael B. Jordan as Johhny Storm aka The Human Torch. As it turns out, Trank's original intention had been to cast both Johnny and his sister Sue Storm as black, as he explained during an episode of Geeks of Color.
"There [were] a lot of controversial conversations that were had behind the scenes on that. I was mostly interested in a black Sue Storm and a black Johnny Storm and a black Franklin Storm. But I also, when you're dealing with a studio on a massive movie like that, everybody wants to keep an open mind to who the big stars are going to be. Like, 'Well maybe it will be Margot Robbie,' or something like that. But when it came down to it, I found a lot of pretty heavy pushback on casting a black woman in that role."
In the past, Trank has pointed to his multicultural upbringing in Los Angeles as the reason why he had wanted to create a black superhero, who could become a role model for kids belonging to the city he came from. The fact that Johnny Storm is traditionally a white guy in the comics meant Michael B. Jordan's casting as the human torch was met with a storm of vitriol by a certain section of the fandom.
Now it seems when it came to casting black actors in the lead role, Trank was facing pushback not just from fans, but from the studio as well. The movie ultimately cast Kate Mara as Sue, Johnny's adopted sister. Today, Trank sees the fact that he caved to studio demand and did not cast a black actress for the part as a failure on his end.
"When I look back on that, I should've just walked when that sort of realization hit me and I feel embarrassed about that, that I didn't, just out of principle, because those aren't the values that I stand for in my own life and those weren't the values then - or ever - for me. Because I'm somebody who always talks about standing up for what I believe in, even if it means burning my career up, and I feel bad that I didn't take it to the mat with that issue. I feel like I failed in that regard, but that was a weird, unfortunate situation, I don't know how else to put it."
To this day, Halle Berry as X-Men's Storm remains the most prominent black actress to play a superhero on the big screen in the past couple of decades. She also portrayed Catwoman in her own standalone movie. With Alexandra Shipp taking over the Storm role in the most recent X-Men movies. There is the entire Wakandan female royal guard and Shuri, who were a big part of Black Panther. Zoe Saldana plays Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy. Akira Akbar played Monica Rambeau in Captain Marvel, with that role expected to be expanded in future MCU movies and/or Disney+ TV shows. And Jurnee Smollett-Bell recently portrayed Black Canary in Birds of Prey. Now, Zeo Kravitz is gearing up to play Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Matt Reeves' The Batman, while a new version of Storm will be introduced to the MCU, probably with a new actress taking over the role from Alexandra Shipp. These small steps towards diversity and inclusion in the comic book movies community can only lead to a richer, more interesting cinematic universe for fans to enjoy.