Director James Wan will bring the king of Atlantis to the big screen with the summer 2018 release of Aquaman, the third post-Batman v Superman solo film following this year’s Wonder Woman and The Flash. The character may seem like a bit of a tough sell, seeing as his powers and design have long been the subject of ridicule. However, recent redesigns and depictions of the character have centered on his role as badass warrior-king, and Jason Momoa’s look as the character appears to follow suit.
Now that Wan’s film is poised to begin production in early 2017, we’re beginning to learn more about what to expect. Rumor has it that longtime Aquaman foe Black Manta will be the primary villain, and naturally the internet instantly went crazy speculating on who might play the role.
[Update, 1/31/17: Per THR, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Netflix’s ‘The Get Down’) is in early talks to play the role of Black Manta in the upcoming ‘Aquaman’ movie.]
While Yahya Abdul-Mateen II appears to be a strong contender for the role, we still have some picks of our own who would be perfect to square off against Momoa. However, we’re leaving out contenders like Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, since they’ve only recently joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will star in Black Panther.
1. Michael Jai White
Nowadays, Michael Jai White may be best known for his role as doomed gangster Gambol in The Dark Knight, but the actor was actually the first African-American to play a superhero in 1997 film Spawn, predating Wesley Snipes’ Blade by just a year. He’s also a gifted martial artist and has the physicality to pose a significant threat to Aquaman. White himself has already shared his interest in the role, and his role as Bronze Tiger on Arrow could indicate that he has an “in” with DC.
2. Cuba Gooding Jr.
This Oscar winner’s career derailed soon after his triumphant appearance in Jerry Maguire back in 1996, but thanks to his titular role in FX series The People vs. O.J. Simpson, he appears poised for a comeback. A villainous supporting role in a tentpole superhero film could do the trick, and Gooding has enough presence to make a convincing baddie opposite Momoa. It would be an outside-the-box choice, but that’s kind of why we love it.
3. Taye Diggs
Stage and screen star Taye Diggs reprised one of his most popular roles in 2013 comedy The Best Man Holiday, but he hasn’t taken a central role in a major Hollywood action film in years. Taking on Black Manta could be a great career move for him, and the team at DC would be lucky to have such an experienced actor onboard the project. We have a feeling the studio might have something different in mind, but Diggs is certainly a solid choice for the role.
4. Michael K. Williams
Just like Michael Jai White, this character actor — perhaps best known for his role on HBO series The Wire — has voiced his hopes to play Black Manta on the big screen. He definitely has enough experience in various genres to take on the role, and for many who have followed his work over the years, Aquaman could be his chance for mainstream stardom. Williams has the voice and physicality for Black Manta, and DC will have earned the hearts of his many fans if they cast him.
[Update, 9/7/16: Unfortunately for fans of Michael K. Williams, director James Wan recently shot down this casting rumor when asked on Twitter (see tweet below).]
Nah, not real. https://t.co/pvqy1b3CnG
— James Wan (@creepypuppet) September 5, 2016
5. David Oyelowo
A gifted performer who should have received an Oscar nomination for his stirring performance as Martin Luther King in Selma, David Oyelowo has yet to receive a role that makes him a major Hollywood star. Free from the burden of playing hero, the role of Black Manta could give the actor the chance to have some fun onscreen and show a different side of his skill, since he’s predominantly played moral authority figures in his recent film roles.
6. Tyrese Gibson
Tyrese Gibson may not be the most acclaimed actor on this list, but he has campaigned long and hard for a role in a superhero film, whether that’s Luke Cage or Green Lantern. He has a signature physique and vocal delivery that earns him a following as one of the main supporting players in the Fast and Furious films, and he’s one of the only contenders for Black Manta who has actually worked with director James Wan before (on Furious 7).
Bonus: Idris Elba
Because the internet seems to want to cast Idris Elba in every role, we couldn’t help but include him here. The actor has an unmistakable voice and physical prowess, and he has the geek cred (Pacific Rim, Thor) to spare. Most importantly, Elba is a tremendous actor, who proves that he can do just about anything. However, he might want a break from playing villains after The Jungle Book and Star Trek Beyond.
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