Black Panther director Ryan Coogler has written a lengthy and loving tribute to his late friend and collaborator Chadwick Boseman. The two worked together very closely on the Black Panther set to make sure what they were making was real and authentic, with Boseman feeling that they were working on something special from the start. Boseman died on Friday at home with his family after a secret four-years struggle with colon cancer. He was 43-years old and his career was only beginning.
Ryan Coogler says that even though he was close with Chadwick Boseman, he did not reveal that he was sick to his collaborators. He says that he later “realized that he was living with his illness the entire time I knew him.” Tributes from Boseman have been pouring in from all over the world from people who knew him and fans who felt like they knew him. As it turns out, Boseman was a real-life superhero behind-the-scenes. Coogler explains.
“Because he was a caretaker, a leader, and a man of faith, dignity and pride, he shielded his collaborators from his suffering. 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.”
The Black Panther director reveals that Chadwick Boseman was still calling and facetiming to check in on him and his family. Ryan Coogler says that Boseman would call to catch up and pass down some easy vegetarian dishes to make while the public health crisis raged on. But, he never talked about his illness. Coogler, like the rest of the world is still coming to grips with his grief. He says.
“I haven’t grieved a loss this acute before. I spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see. It leaves me broken knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take.”
Before Ryan Coogler even met Chadwick Boseman, he was struck by his dedication to his craft. When checking out a rough cut of Captain America: Civil War, Coogler was taken aback by the language that T’Challa and his father were speaking on the screen. As it turned out, it is a real language, that Boseman just happened to learn on the spot. The African language of Xhosa is T’Challa’s native tongue and it’s something that was all Boseman’s idea. “I noticed then that Chad was an anomaly. He was calm. Assured. Constantly studying,” Coogler says. “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.”
While they were making Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman would reassure the cast and crew that what they were doing was special, even when things were at there hardest. He told Ryan Coogler that they were making “our Star Wars,” or “our Lord of the Rings. Coogler admits that he had a hard time believing it at the time, but Boseman was proven to be right because he could feel it. You can read the rest of Ryan Coogler’s lengthy and loving tribute to Chadwick Boseman over at The Hollywood Reporter.