Before Netflix adapted Luke Cage to television and Marvel conceived a cinematic universe, director Quentin Tarantino had plans for the Hero for Hire. The Academy Award-winner appeared on Amy Schumer‘s podcast 3 Girls, 1 Keith to talk about his early ambitions as an aspiring filmmaker including wanting to adapt the hero to the big screen. Tarantino confessed a Luke Cage film interested him between making Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994). He grew up idolizing the hero having Laurence Fishburne in mind for the role before his friends talked him out of it. “There was a time before all this Marvel s*** was coming out. It was after Reservoir Dogs. It was before Pulp Fiction and I had thought about doing Luke Cage. Growing up I was a big comic-book collector, and my two favorites were Luke Cage: Hero for Hire, later Luke Cage: Power Man, and Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu.”
As it turned out, a debate over casting Fishburne and Wesley Snipes ruined his dream project. “What dissuaded me … was my comic-geek friends talked me out of it, because I had an idea that Larry Fishburne would’ve been the perfect guy to play Luke Cage. But all my friends were like, ‘It’s got to be Wesley Snipes.’ And I go, ‘Look, I like Wesley Snipes, but Larry Fishburne is practically Marlon Brando. I think Fish is the man.’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, but he’d have to get in shape in a big way. Snipes is that way already!’ And I go, ‘F*** that! That’s not that important! F-ck you, you ruined the whole damn thing!'”
Tarantino moved on building his own universe stylistically recreating his childhood favorites from filmmakers he followed in his youth. When Cage finally got the live-action treatment, the director didn’t think much of the modernization of the character on the Mike Colter-starred series. “Well, frankly, to tell you the truth, I might be one of the pains in their asses because I love the way the character was presented so much in the ’70s,” Tarantino admitted at the time. “I’m not really that open to a rethinking on who he was. I just think that first issue, that origin issue … was so good, and it was really Marvel‘s attempt to try to do a blaxploitation movie vibe as one of their superhero comics. And I thought they nailed it. Absolutely nailed it. So, just take that Issue 1 and put it in script form and do that. The Luke Cage: Hero for Hire era … that’s the era.”
Most of Tarantino‘s recent work are period pieces with The Hateful Eight (2015), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), Django Unchained (2012), and Inglorious Basterds (2009). His last few films set in contemporary time like Kill Bill (2003/2004) and Jackie Brown (1997) drew heavy inspiration from older samurai revenge and blaxploitation films. If one wonders what Tarantino‘s Luke Cage could look like, probably not far removed from Jackie Brown. It’s not the first franchise Tarantino teased his involvement in. He was developing an R-rated Star Trek film before he abandoned the project.