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Michael B. Jordan Could Change How We See World War II Movies

‘The Liberators’ will be about one of the all-black regiments instrumental in the success of the US Armed Forces.
By  · Published on March 20th, 2018

‘The Liberators’ will be about one of the all-black regiments instrumental in the success of the US Armed Forces.

Michael B. Jordan had been gaining traction in Hollywood for years after appearances in The WireFriday Night Lights, ChronicleFruitvale Station, and Creed. But the MBJ fever didn’t truly hit until this year when Jordan starred in Marvel’s Black Panther.

With a plethora of new fans and increased influence, a ton of opportunities have opened up for the actor, and he isn’t wasting a single one of them. Jordan’s production company, Outlier Society, made the news in exactly the right way recently after committing to adopting inclusion riders in all its future projects. In terms of the company’s actual slate, Jordan is also determined to bring exciting yet historically significant stories to the screen. Along with a superhero show with a focus on family and a modern-day coming-of-age narrative, Jordan will produce The Liberators, a World War II action-drama about the 761st Regiment.

First reported by Variety, The Liberators will focus on one of the entirely African-American combat units whose heroism ultimately led to the desegregation of the armed forces after WWII. The film will be made from a spec script by Madison Turner (6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain), but there is no director attached yet. We also don’t know if Jordan will star in the film either. Still, his involvement already piques our interest in a vital way: Jordan brings with him an amount of exposure that such a critical story — one that hasn’t yet been properly told on the big screen — will benefit from.

The efforts of the 761st Tank Battalion, known as the “Black Panthers,” have been hinted at in several productions in the past. They’ve been documented in nonfiction films to varying degrees of accuracy, from Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II in 1992 to 761st in 2007. Shows such as Law & Order have referenced them in their procedural style formats, and The Cosby Show discussed it at one point too.

The closest thing to a fictional portrayal of the unit on the big screen with any kind of big-name actor or producer attached came from Morgan Freeman in the mid-2000s. The untitled project was to be based on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anthony Walton’s book “Brothers in Arms.” Once thought to also involve Will Smith and Denzel Washington in some capacity, that film has since stayed in limbo for over a decade later. The most recent portrayal of the 761st Regiment was in Mudbound, in which one of the main characters, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), is a WWII vet who served in the unit.

There is no shortage of films about WWII. Movies are constantly being made about that period or the ripple effects caused as the result of the war, and many are repeatedly lauded at awards ceremonies. Yet despite their crucial involvement in WWII, African-American soldiers have rarely been celebrated on film in a similarly focused and accessible fashion. Spike Lee directed Miracle at St. Anna, and the famed Tuskegee Airmen were portrayed in George Lucas’s Red Tails, but there could always be more, and The Liberators absolutely fits the bill.

Likely taking a cue from the cultural impact of Black Panther, Jordan is championing a narrative that has the potential to continue to remythologize black representation in a positive light; just on a less fantastical level in The Liberators. The film would also undoubtedly be a gateway film for many aspiring black actors. The inclusion rider stipulation ensures a diverse crew behind the scenes as well. Even before The Liberators begins production, it is on track to be a vastly important movie for the past, present, and future of war movies.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)