A ‘Blade’ Timeline: Five Years and Counting for Marvel’s Reboot With Mahershala Ali

Before “Iron Man” and “Thor,” before “Spider-Man” and “X-Men,” there was “Blade.” Starring Wesley Snipes as the titular daywalking half-vampire vampire slayer, the movie debuted in 1998 at a time when Marvel comics had yet to enjoy a successful feature film adaptation. The New Line Cinema production was enough of a hit — grossing $131.2 million worldwide — that Snipes returned for two sequels, establishing the company’s first ever bona fide movie franchise. Had “Blade” bombed, the Marvel Cinematic Universe may never have happened.

So when Marvel Studios announced in 2019 that two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali was going to bring the character to the MCU, it seemed like a total no brainer.

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Five years later, however, “Blade” has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and two major guild strikes, faced three release date changes, lost two directors, and hired at least a half dozen screenwriters in what could be the most protracted development process ever for Disney’s superhero division.

Unlike virtually the rest of the industry, Marvel Studios commits to producing every title it announces — sometimes well in advance of hiring the filmmaking team that makes them, as was the case with “Blade.” Despite all the delays and setbacks, insiders say the Marvel remains enthusiastic about getting the film in front of cameras with Ali in the title role.

Here’s a timeline of every major development on “Blade’s” winding road to movie theaters.

July 20, 2019: Marvel Studios announces “Blade” reboot

In the final moments of Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige’s blockbuster post-“Avengers: Endgame” presentation at San Diego Comic-Con, Feige dimmed the lights of Hall H one final time to debut a title treatment for “Blade,” and then brought out Ali wearing a baseball cap with the same logo. Ali later shared that he pitched himself to Feige for the part after he kept hearing that Marvel was looking to reboot the “Blade” franchise. But at the time Feige announced Ali’s involvement, no director or screenwriter was attached to the project.

Feb. 5, 2021: Stacy Osei-Kuffour tapped to write screenplay

Osei-Kuffour wrote on HBO’s “Watchmen” and earned an Emmy nomination for writing a Season 1 episode of Hulu’s “Pen15.”

bassam tariq marvel studios blade
bassam tariq marvel studios blade

July 19, 2021: Bassam Tariq signs on to direct

Tariq’s most high-profile movie is 2020’s “Mogul Mowgli,” starring Riz Ahmed. He’s also made a series of documentaries and short films, including “These Birds Walk,” “11/8/16,” “Red Mountain Choir,” “Wa’ad,” “Mogambo” and “Ghosts of Sugar Land.”

Nov. 5, 2021: Ali gives his first performance as Blade in Marvel’s “Eternals” — but it’s just his voice

In the end credits scene of the Chloé Zhao film, Kit Harington’s character, Dane Whitman, opens an ancient box containing the Ebony Blade, a cursed sword that has haunted Dane’s family for generations. Right as Dane is about to pick up the blade, Ali’s voice is heard off camera: “Sure you’re ready for that, Mr. Whitman?”

Harington told Variety that, although he knew what was being said to Dane in that moment, he learned Ali was saying it as Blade only about three weeks before the film’s premiere. “Chloé texted me saying that’s what they were doing,” Harington said. “It really excited me, hearing that. He’s one of my favorite actors out there at the moment.” He added that he had “no idea” whether the scene means Dane would appear in “Blade.”

“I’m assuming that that would be the case, but who knows?”

Nov. 19, 2021: Delroy Lindo joins cast

The veteran actor (“Da 5 Bloods,” “The Harder They Fall,” “The Good Fight”) signed onto the film for an undisclosed role.

Feb. 22, 2022: Aaron Pierre joins cast

Pierre, who made his breakthrough performance in Barry Jenkins’ limited series “The Underground Railroad,” signed on for an undisclosed role.

July 23, 2022: “Blade” receives an official release date

Feige announced at San Diego Comic-Con that “Blade” would begin to shoot that October and would premiere on Nov. 3, 2023.

Sept. 27, 2022: Bassam Tariq exits as director

In a surprise announcement, Tariq withdrew as the director of “Blade” roughly two months before the film was set to begin filming. “It’s been an honor working with the wonderful folks at Marvel,” he said in a statement. “We were able to put together a killer cast and crew. Eager to see where the next director takes the film.”

Oct. 11, 2022: Release date pushed to 2024

As part of a wider change to its release calendar, Marvel Studios pushed “Blade” from Nov. 3, 2023 to Sept. 6, 2024.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - DECEMBER 06: Yann Demange attends the "Dammi" press junket during the Red Sea International Film Festival 2023 on December 06, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for The Red Sea International Film Festival)
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - DECEMBER 06: Yann Demange attends the "Dammi" press junket during the Red Sea International Film Festival 2023 on December 06, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for The Red Sea International Film Festival)

Nov. 21, 2022: Yann Demange joins production as director, and Michael Starrbury joins as screenwriter

Demange started his directing career on TV shows like “Dead Set” and “Top Boy,” and directed the 2014 thriller “’71” and 2018 crime drama “White Boy Rick.” He also directed the pilot of the HBO series “Lovecraft Country.”

Starrbury — who was hired to write a brand new script for the film — wrote on shows like “Colin in Black & White” and “When They See Us.”

Feb. 14, 2023: Feige says “Blade” will start production in “10 weeks or so”

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Feige said that work on “Blade” is “going well” and that “cameras roll in, like, the next 10 weeks or so.”

April 12, 2023: Mia Goth joins cast

The actor, who had a breakout year in 2022 with “X” and “Pearl,” joined for — you guessed it! — an undisclosed role.

Nic Pizzolatto Mahershala Ali
Nic Pizzolatto Mahershala Ali

April 28, 2023: Nic Pizzolatto signs on to write screenplay

Pizzolatto — who first worked with Ali on Season 3 of HBO’s “True Detective” — signed on as a screenwriter just days before the WGA strike began.

May 5, 2023: Pre-production on “Blade” shut down during writers strike

As Feige had noted earlier in the year, production was expected to start on the film in roughly a month.

June 13, 2023: Release date pushed to 2025

Amid the ongoing writers strike and the looming actors strike, Disney pushed back film releases across its entire calendar, moving “Blade” from Sept. 6, 2024 to Feb. 14, 2025.

Nov. 1, 2023: Michael Green joins as screenwriter 

Variety reported that Feige hired the “Logan” screenwriter to start fresh after Ali was dissatisfied with earlier drafts, including one that was led by women and had Blade as the fourth lead.

Nov. 9, 2023: Marvel pushes “Blade” back again

As part of a company-wide reshuffling following the twin writers and actors strikes, “Blade” was pushed from Feb. 15, 2025 to Nov. 7, 2025.

Dec. 6, 2023: Ali says he’s “sincerely encouraged” by progress on the film

“We’re working on it. That’s the best I could tell you,” the actor told Entertainment Weekly. “I’m really encouraged with the direction of the project. We’ll be back at it relatively soon. … I’m sincerely encouraged in terms of where things are at and who’s on board and who’s leading the way as far as the writing of the script and the directing and all that. So that’s the extent of what I can tell you.”

March 17, 2024: Aaron Pierre says he’s no longer in “Blade”

“Early on, there were conversations,” the actor told Variety on the red carpet of the 55th NAACP Image Awards. “As the project evolved, I’m no longer part of that — attached.”

As is the case with almost all Marvel casting, the studio never officially announced Pierre’s involvement.

June 12, 2024: Yann Demange exits as director, Eric Pearson joins as screenwriter

Nearly two years after taking the directing reins, Demange quietly departed the production, which was reported weeks later.

Meanwhile, veteran Marvel scribe Eric Pearson (“The Fantastic Four,” “Black Widow,” “Thor: Ragnarok”) signed on to write the script, making him at least the sixth writer to tackle the screenplay, including “X-Men ’97” head writer Beau DeMayo. Hiring Pearson — seen internally as a closer who can bring scripts over the finish line — could be the most promising sign yet that “Blade” will, finally, have his day in the sun.

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