Black Panther director Ryan Coogler has written a lengthy, beautiful tribute to his friend Chadwick Boseman, who passed away last Friday after a lengthy battle with colon cancer. Boseman not only starred as King T’Challa in Black Panther but was, according to Coogler, hugely instrumental in its production process, providing onset leadership, thoughtful story edits and casting feedback. “He was a special person,” Coogler writes. “We would often speak about heritage and what it means to be African. When preparing for the film, he would ponder every decision, every choice, not just for how it would reflect on himself, but how those choices could reverberate. ”
“I had no idea if the film would work,” Coogler admits. “I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing. 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.”
Coogler says he wasn’t aware of Boseman’s cancer diagnosis — very few people in Boseman’s life were — and marveled at his ability to both work at such a high level while battling a vicious disease.
Chad deeply valued his privacy, and I wasn’t privy to the details of his illness. 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. 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.
Coogler also referenced gratitude for Boseman’s investment in his life during the pandemic, saying the would swap meal plans and recipes for cooking while on lockdown. Coogler has been hard at work on the script for Black Panther 2 and mourned the fact that he wouldn’t get another opportunity to work with his friend.
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.
You can, and should, read the whole thing at Marvel.