Following Chadwick Boseman’s heartbreaking passing last weekend, Black Panther’s director, Ryan Coogler, released a touching yet heart-rendering statement – among several other tributes and outpours of grief.
Chadwick Boseman portrayed the lead in Marvel’s Black Panther, King T’Challa, and worked closely with the director and co-writer, Ryan Coogler. In Coogler’s emotional statement, he begins by expressing his sorrow and condolences to Boseman’s family.
He then opens up about his first interaction with Boseman, when Coogler was still debating if he wanted to direct the movie and saw him in then-unreleased footage of Captain America: Civil War.
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We lost a giant. I honestly haven’t known what to say, or what I could possibly contribute in the wake of this chasm opening … this valley of hurt & sadness. This robbery. Robbery of a spirit, a leader, a truth-teller. • What I do know is that the impression that #ChadwickBoseman left on me reverberated so deeply that when I heard the news on Friday night, I wept for what felt like hours. And I was only lucky enough to have worked alongside him once. I am gutted for the world. For the stories we will never see him tell. For the loss of a man who embodied such grace. Such immense intellect. Such sacred spirit. Such consideration. Humility and curiosity. The list goes on. • I am crushed for his wife. For his closest friends. For the scores of kids who saw themselves in his face — his eyes that sparkled when he looked at them — and for the world who finally saw a hero that looked like the face they see in the mirror every day. I am rocked by this loss, and I know that this ocean of sadness is but proximal. I am utterly and truly gutted for the people whose pain must feel like the entire cosmos. Chad was one in a billion. I’m so grateful to @reggiehudlin, that I got to laugh with Chad and witness him. I saw his fire for justice, and for his community. It burned like the stars. • @mspackyetti said it more beautifully than I can … “I can’t imagine how tired he must have been. And he gave us his gift anyway … Think of all the stories he helped tell. All the people he helped find hope. All the Black children for whom he could be a powerful reflection. All with his own terminal illness. I am astonished by the weight of that sacrifice. He certainly did not have to, and he still would be just as worthy of our love and gratitude. What generosity, discipline and love to be forced to look out at the end of your life and decide, ‘I’m going to live my legacy now.’ He chose to tell Black stories with the time he had left. What a stunning gift. What a stunning life. ‘Here we are thinking he was just playing a superhero, and he actually was one.’ – @mjay615” • Wakanda Forever. Chadwick forever. Rest in power. Rest In Peace. We loved you. We love you.
Coogler was thankful that the casting choice of King T’Challa was in his hands. He adds that he was amazed to discover that John Kani, Boseman’s on-screen father, was speaking in Xhosa, Kani’s native language which miraculously, Boseman had learned some of it that very day.
Coogler was left in awe at Boseman’s capacity as an actor – “It was at that moment I knew I wanted to make this movie”. This, Coogler explains, led Boseman to vouch for his character’s accent to be African, a dialect untouched by the West, and Coogler writes about how Xhosa became to be Wakanda’s official language.
“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.”
Coogler goes on to praise Boseman’s warm, loving. He opens up about what life was like on set, and how Boseman was nothing but encouraging; “This is Star Wars”, Boseman would say, “this is the Lord of the Rings, but for us…and bigger!”
And besides Boseman’s complete faith in Black Panther, he’d even go to auditions for supporting roles – he was interested in it all, the costumes, the military practices, as well as the cast and crew. “He would check in on me and my loved ones”, wrote Coogler, “even as he dealt with the scourge of cancer”.
Heartbrokenly, Coogler then writes about the depth of his grief, saying “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”, especially since Black Panther 2 was also in the works.
In the absolutely touching post, Coogler concludes…
“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.”
“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.”
Rest in Power Chadwick!