“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” director Ryan Coogler has confirmed that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character Val had a much bigger presence in the original version of the film before Chadwick Boseman’s passing.

Speaking with The New York Times about the earlier version of the film before it was re-written after Boseman’s death, he was asked if Namor was always planned to be in the sequel as the villain. Coogler confirmed he was but added that it was a shared antagonist role with Val “much more active”.

Coogler confirms the original script was to deal with T’Challa’s five-year absence during the Blip. He returns to find he has a son with Nakia, who has remarried. That then cuts to three years later as he and the eight-year-old have to save the world together.

Coogler says it was going to be a “father-son story from the perspective of a father because the first movie had been a father-son story from the perspective of the sons”.

In that version, the battle “was basically a three-way conflict between Wakanda, the U.S. and Talokan. But it was all mostly from the child’s perspective”. Coogler says Val’s inclusion was not shoehorned in. In fact, she was pared back to give more time to deal with the grief over T’Challa’s death.

He adds: “We had Val in there before she even appeared in any of the other movies, before ‘Black Widow’ and [the series] ‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’. People assume that we were told to put her in, but she was there from the beginning.”

Louis-Dreyfus’ character Valentina ‘Val’ Allegra de Fontaine initially appeared in cameos in those other works as a slightly more sinister take on Nick Fury, with her character being somewhat mysterious. The ‘Panther’ sequel deflated that a bit, showing her to be the CIA director and ex-wife of Martin Freeman’s character.

The comments come as “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is still in the box-office top five and is on track for a domestic haul of over $430 million in total by the end of this weekend.

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