Ryan Coogler, who directed Chadwick Boseman “Black Panther,” has paid tribute to the actor after his tragic death.
Boseman’s passing was confirmed in a statement on his official social media channels on Friday after he passed from colon cancer at the age of 43.
The star was best known as the ritual character of Marvel’s “Black Panther,” which was directed and co-written by Coogler, 34.
Joining the chorus of stars celebrities and Marvel stars to pay tribute to the late actor, Coogler has issued a lengthy and loving statement obtained by People magazine in honor of Boseman.
His message began with his condolences for Boseman’s family, specifically his wife Simone.
The filmmaker then explained that he “inherited” Boseman’s character of T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as he first appeared in “Captain America: Civil War” before leading his own film. Coogler said he is “grateful” for such an inheritance.
“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,” he recalled. “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.”
Coogler said he connected to the non-English language spoken by Boseman and Kani in the scene, which contained “clicks and smacks” which he said contained a ” musicality to it that felt ancient, powerful, and African.”
A producer of the film would later explain the language to be Xhosa, Kani’s native language, which he and Boseman chose to use in the scene.
“I thought to myself. ‘He just learned lines in another language, that day?’ I couldn’t conceive how difficult that must have been, and even though I hadn’t met Chad, I was already in awe of his capacity as [an] actor,” recalled Coogler. “I learned later that there was much conversation over how T’Challa would sound in the film.”
According to the statement, Boseman also insisted that T’Challa and the other citizens of the fictional country of Wakanda speak with an African accent in order to best portray “an African king, whose dialect had not been conquered by the West.”
When Coogler finally met the actor in 2016, he found him to be an “anomaly.”
“He was calm. Assured. Constantly studying,” the director wrote. “But also kind, comforting, had the warmest laugh in the world, and eyes that seen much beyond his years, but could still sparkle like a child seeing something for the first time.”
Throughout the filming of “Black Panther,” Boseman would express just how important the film was and insisted that it would leave a mark on Hollywood, Coogler said, though he admitted to not believing the actor.
“I had no idea if the film would work. I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing,” he shared. “But I look back and realize that Chad knew something we all didn’t. He was playing the long game. All while putting in the work. And work he did.”
In fact, the actor sat in on auditions for the supporting roles — a rare move for someone in such a position. Winston Duke and Letitia Wright were among those to have worked with the star in their auditions.
Boseman also had plenty of ideas for the film well beyond it’s casting, Coogler said.
“While filming the movie, we would meet at the office or at my rental home in Atlanta, to discuss lines and different ways to add depth to each scene. We talked costumes, military practices. He said to me ‘Wakandans have to dance during the coronations. If they just stand there with spears, what separates them from Romans?'” the director said. “In early drafts of the script. Eric Killmonger’s character would ask T’Challa to be buried in Wakanda. Chad challenged that and asked, what if Killmonger asked to be buried somewhere else?”
Then, the director spoke about the value Boseman found in privacy, sharing he “wasn’t privy” to information bout the actor’s battle with cancer.
“After his family released their statement, I realized that he was living with his illness the entire time I knew him. Because he was a caretaker, a leader, and a man of faith, dignity and pride, he shielded his collaborators from his suffering,” Coogler said. “He lived a beautiful life. And he made great art. Day after day, year after year. That was who he was. He was an epic firework display. I will tell stories about being there for some of the brilliant sparks till the end of my days. What an incredible mark he’s left for us.”
The director confessed to never having “grieved a loss this acute before,” leaving the director devastated that they’ll never work together again.
“It hurts more to know that we can’t have another conversation, or Facetime, or text message exchange,” he said. “He would send vegetarian recipes and eating regimens for my family and me to follow during the pandemic. He would check in on me and my loved ones, even as he dealt with the scourge of cancer.”
The director concluded: “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.”