Most of the world is still reeling from the death of Chadwick Boseman, who tragically passed away at the age of 43 following a years-long battle with colon cancer. Since his passing many have paid tribute to the actor through a number of emotional social media posts. This includes a large number of them from his Marvel co-stars. Now, Ryan Coogler, the man who directed Boseman in Black Panther, has spoken out on his star’s death in what is a truly beautiful statement:
Ryan Coogler wrote out a lengthy statement (via THR) in which he recalled the first time he ever saw Chadwick Boseman portray T’Challa. This occurred when he viewed a rough cut of Captain America: Civil War, during which Coogler became amazed by Boseman’s interaction with his on-screen father, John Kani:
I inherited Marvel and the Russo Brothers’ casting choice of T’Challa. It is something that I will forever be grateful for. The first time I saw Chad’s performance as T’Challa, it was in an unfinished cut of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. I was deciding whether or not directing BLACK PANTHER was the right choice for me. I’ll never forget, sitting in an editorial suite on the Disney Lot and watching his scenes. His first with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, then, with the South African cinema titan, John Kani as T’Challa’s father, King T’Chaka. It was at that moment I knew I wanted to make this movie. After Scarlett’s character leaves them, Chad and John began conversing in a language I had never heard before. It sounded familiar, full of the same clicks and smacks that young black children would make in the States. The same clicks that we would often be chided for being disrespectful or improper. But, it had a musicality to it that felt ancient, powerful, and African.
Coogler went on to say that he was amazed to discover that the language the two were speaking was John Kani’s native tongue and that Chadwick Boseman had learned to speak in the Xhosa language on the day they shot the scene. Coogler wrote that he was even more impressed when he learned that Boseman to speak with an African accent while performing the role.
Following this the direct recalled his first meeting with the Black Panther actor:
I finally met Chad in person in early 2016, once I signed onto the film. He snuck past journalists that were congregated for a press junket I was doing for CREED, and met with me in the green room. We talked about our lives, my time playing football in college, and his time at Howard studying to be a director, about our collective vision for T’Challa and Wakanda. We spoke about the irony of how his former Howard classmate Ta-Nehisi Coates was writing T’Challa’s current arc with Marvel Comics. And how Chad knew Howard student Prince Jones, who’s murder by a police officer inspired Coates’ memoir Between The World and Me.
Coogler also reminisced on the discussions that he and Boseman had while developing the film and stressed how the actor understood just how important the film was and what it could do for Black culture. He recalled the small yet important details that Boseman added to the film, like recommending that the Wakandans dance during T’Challa’s coronation.
When noting that Chadwick Boseman was an incredibly private person, Ryan Coogler revealed that he was unaware of his illness and didn’t find out until his passing on Friday. He then went on to praise him as a “caretaker,” “leader” and “a man of faith, dignity and pride.”
Ryan Coogler closed out the letter by reflecting on the day he and Chadwick Boseman shot the scenes in which T’Challa communicates with the ancestors. The director used this to illustrate how in African culture, those who have passed away are referred to as “ancestors.” And Coogler admitted to now having to acknowledge the fact that Boseman is now an ancestor:
In African cultures we often refer to loved ones that have passed on as ancestors. Sometimes you are genetically related. Sometimes you are not. I had the privilege of directing scenes of Chad’s character, T’Challa, communicating with the ancestors of Wakanda. We were in Atlanta, in an abandoned warehouse, with bluescreens, and massive movie lights, but Chad’s performance made it feel real. I think it was because from the time that I met him, the ancestors spoke through him. It’s no secret to me now how he was able to skillfully portray some of our most notable ones. I had no doubt that he would live on and continue to bless us with more. But it is with a heavy heart and a sense of deep gratitude to have ever been in his presence, that I have to reckon with the fact that Chad is an ancestor now. And I know that he will watch over us, until we meet again.
To say that Ryan Coogler was able to thoughtfully express his thoughts on feelings on Chadwick Boseman’s passing and paint a beautiful picture of their relationship would be an understatement. While it already shone through in their public interactions, these words give us an even deeper understanding what the two collaborators meant to each other.
I think I speak for most of us when I say we’ll continue to both mourn and honor Chadwick Boseman and reflect on what he was able to accomplish during his time on this Earth.
We at CinemaBlend continue to extend our deepest condolences to Chadwick Boseman’s loved ones during this time.