Namor McKenzie aka The Sub-Mariner has become one of the few high-profile Marvel Comics characters that is still on the table to finally make his jump from the comics to the big screen. The aquatic superhero debuted back in 1939 and was created by Bill Everett, who also famously created Matt Murdock aka Daredevil with Stan Lee.
In the early days of Marvel Studios, a feature film version of Namor The Sub-Mariner was being developed back to 1997 when Variety reported that The Right Stuff’s Philip Kaufman was trying to make a solo movie with Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm. This took place around the same time 20th Century Fox was working on a Silver Surfer movie with director Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper) and a version of Fantastic Four from director Pete Segal (Tommy Boy, Get Smart, 50 First Dates).
Universal Pictures got their hands on the rights then attempted their own version of The Sub-Mariner in late 2004 with director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets, Adventures In Babysitting) working from a script penned by screenwriter David Self (Road To Perdition, The Wolfman). Two years later, Universal and Marvel Studios hired Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines) to direct and rewrite the Self script, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Here is the logline for the Jonathan Mostow version.
The movie’s take will see a young man discovering he actually is a prince from Atlantis, with him turning out to be the key man in a brewing war between the underwater world and the modern surface world.
In 2008, British actor and former professional diver Jason Statham revealed to IESB that he met with the studio for The Sub-Mariner, but couldn’t picture himself in the part.
STATHAM: “I took a meeting for Sub-Mariner. I don’t know if I’d look right running around in a tight speedo with wings on my ankles but there’s so many cool fucking characters.”
From there the project dissolved and after the massive success of Iron Man/Phase One there was hope from fans that Marvel could wrangle the character back from Universal Pictures and do their own thing. While there had talk that Namor was completely back at Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige suggested to IGN back in 2018 things were complicated with the rights. At the time, it seemed like there were still issues giving the anti-hero his own solo project.
IGN: With the Disney/Fox deal, if that pans out, with the Sony rights sharing deal with Spidey, the one big loose end, then, is Namor and Universal. Can you tell us what the status of that is? Is there any chance for him to just pop up in an MCU film? It just sounds like an incredibly complicated situation, for one character.
FEIGE: “It is. I think there’s a way to probably figure it out but it does have — it’s not as a clean or clear as the majority of the other characters.”
He obviously could become one of the more crossover-friendly characters as he has connections to Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Illuminati, the original Defenders lineup alongside Doctor Strange and Hulk, The Avengers, X-Men, the WWII era team The Invaders, and ties to Agents of Atlas via his cousin Namora.
There has been years of speculation and rumors concerning when and where Namor McKenzie aka The Sub-Mariner will show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however, none of that chatter has been confirmed or announced by the studio officially. Despite the ideas he could be appearing in things like Eternals, Black Panther 2 or Fantastic Four. So, there is a possibility that they still haven’t hired an actor to play Marvel’s “first mutant.”
I’d personally like to see Marvel Studios continue their recent trend of looking at actors with a mix of commercial and awards success. You’d have to imagine given that Namor is potentially going to jump around to different franchises they’re going to need an actor with some decent range and wide-range of genre credits.
Here’s a trio of Oscar caliber actors I’d like to see in the Namor role.
RIZ AHMED (AGE 38): Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The Night Of, Sound of Metal, Nightcrawler, Four Lions, Venom, and Jason Bourne.
STEVEN YEUN (AGE 37): The Walking Dead, Minari, Invincible, Burning, and Okja.
DEV PATEL (AGE 30): The Green Knight, Skins, Slumdog Millionaire, Chappie, Lion, Hotel Mumbai, The Newsroom, and The Last Airbender.