According to The Avengers: Age of Ultron star Anthony Mackie, there's one criterion Marvel can leave out when searching for a director for its Black Panther film: race.
In an interview with the Daily Beast to promote his upcoming film Our Brand Is Crisis, the interview turned to the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe and the search for a Black Panther director, a job Ava DuVernay turned down.
Mackie, one of Marvel's few actors of color, praised the company for "pushing the envelope with characters who look like the people who are going to the movies."
According to the interview, Mackie once dreamed of playing Black Panther, a role that went to 42's Chadwick Boseman. But Mackie didn't share the urgency others do to pressure Marvel for a black director to helm the first movie led by a black superhero.
"I don't think it's important at all," Mackie told the Daily Beast. "As a director, your job is to tell a story. You know, they didn't get a horse to direct Seabiscuit!"
"The thing is, I don't think the race of the director has to do with their ability to tell a story," he said in the interview. "I think it's all about the director's ability to be able to relate to that story and do it justice. I think men can direct women, and two of my greatest work experiences were with female directors. So I think it all depends. May the best man — or woman — win."
This is not Mackie's first comment on the state of black Hollywood. In an interview with the Grio earlier this year, Mackie said that Selma performed poorly at the box office and garnered only two Oscar nominations because audiences were "tired of being bombarded with race right now."
Mackie also said Selma missed out on Academy Award nominations not because of Hollywood's notable diversity problem, but because they are rewarding the industry's best, and no black-led films made the cut.
"If you look at all the movies and actors that are nominated, they all gave damn good performances," Mackie told the Grio. "Me specifically, if that's something I want, I have to step my game up. I have to do better movies and I have to act better."
In a 2011 interview with the Grio, Mackie said that black people in Hollywood were "kinda lazy on our game." He added, "There are enough brothers with distribution deals and production deals where we should be making our own movies."
Hollywood weighs in: Diversity in the entertainment industry is an ongoing hot topic. "I think Hollywood has a ways to go," Sanaa Lathan told the Huffington Post recently. "But I think the language needs to change, the language about 'Oh, this is an urban film or this is a niche film.' No, these are Hollywood films."
Matt Damon made headlines in September when, in an episode of HBO's Project Greenlight, he told Effie Brown, a black woman and a producer, that diversity is important in front of the camera and less so behind it.
To which Brown responded simply, "Hoo. Wow. Okay."
Marvel's Black Panther is due out in 2018. The search for a director continues.