EXCLUSIVE: Marvel Studios is setting Destin Daniel Cretton to direct Shang-Chi, its first superhero movie tentpole franchise with an Asian protagonist. Cretton is directing Just Mercy, a film he wrote that stars Brie Larson and Michael B. Jordan.
This is in keeping with the studio’s goal to take Shang-Chi in a direction like Black Panther and populate it with Asian-American talent. When Deadline first revealed the project late last year, the studio had set Chinese-American scribe Dave Callaham to write the screenplay.
Black Panther provided a watershed template for how to do this, making a film that tied into African and African-American cultures and the sensibilities of its nearly all-black cast, with a black director in Ryan Coogler and writer in Joe Robert Cole. The film got a Best Picture Oscar nomination and won three Oscars, in addition to grossing $1.3 billion worldwide. It is clear that after Marvel Studios’ unparalleled decade of success following Iron Man, Kevin Feige’s next iterations of superhero franchises will distinguish themselves with ethnic diversity and inclusion, in front of and behind the camera.
Larson first worked with Cretton when she starred in his second film, Short Term 12. His other directorial credits include The Glass Castle. He is repped by WME and attorney Chad Christopher of Stone Genow.
Callaham has strong credentials in the superhero and franchise-building realms and his own experiences as a Chinese-American will inform the Shang-Chi movie mythology. His recent work includes co-writing with Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns the upcoming DC Warner Bros sequel Wonder Woman 1984, and he is writing Sony’s animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2. He also wrote initial drafts of Zombieland 2, which began production in January, and created and produced Amazon’s recent action comedy series Jean-Claude Van Johnson, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Callaham also created the Expendables franchise as well as the story for Legendary’s Godzilla reboot.
Shang-Chi first appeared in Special Marvel Edition #15 in December 1973, hatched by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin. The script will modernize the hero to avoid stereotypes that many comic characters of that era were saddled with. The comic launched around the time that Enter the Dragon became a global sensation and martial arts films raged.
In the comics, Shang-Chi is the son of China-based globalist who raised and educated his progeny in his reclusive China compound, closed off to the outside world. The son trained in the martial arts and developed unsurpassed skills. He is eventually introduced to the outside world to do his father’s bidding, and then has to come to grips with the fact his revered father might not be the humanitarian he has claimed to be and is closer to what others call him: The Devil’s Doctor. He also might be centuries old. The deceit makes them bitter enemies.