Relatively untested filmmaker Stephen Norrington (“Death Machine”) was chosen to occupy the director’s chair, while a cast of sturdy actors would fill in around snipes. This includes Stephen Dorff as Deacon Frost, Kris Kristofferson as Whistler, and Donal Logue as Quinn. That all worked out just fine, and Goyer is the sole credited screenwriter. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some disagreements along the way.
At the time, there was little to no respect given to Marvel and its deep bench of characters, nor did Hollywood respect comic books as source material for blockbusters. To illustrate that, Goyer explained in that EW piece that the studio had an eye-popping request. “At one point the [studio] came to us and said ‘can Blade be white?’ and I said ‘Absolutely f***ing not.'” The studio came back with a list of actors and, depending on who agreed to star, it would impact the movie’s budget.
“[New Line studio head] Mike DeLuca said ‘I’ll make it for $40 million if you can get Denzel Washington, 35 if you can get Wesley Snipes, and 20 if you can get Laurence Fishburne.'”
So, Snipes it was. The movie did wind up with a $45 million budget anyhow though. As further evidence of how different things were back then, Goyer actually had to fight to get both Wolfman and Colan credit in the film for creating the character of Blade. Speaking to IGN in 2004, the filmmaker explained:
“I was the one that argued that Wolfman and Colan should have credit in the first place. Marvel wasn’t going to give them credit, and I said, ‘Why don’t you give them credit?’ I got on the line with New Line’s Business Affairs.”
So no, the business at large didn’t quite understand the potential value of comic book movies just yet, particularly in regards to Marvel. But they were going to begin to understand, because “Blade” was going to make them understand.