As published by The Hollywood Reporter this morning, Ryan Coogler, who directed the late Chadwick Boseman in his iconic Black Panther role, penned a tribute to his friend and collaborator who shockingly passed this weekend. In it, he remembers how Boseman drew him to the project, as the Russo brothers had already cast him for Captain America: Civil War.
It was a scene in which he and T’Chaka actor John Kani spoke “Wakandan” that helped seal the deal. He remembers: “I asked Nate Moore, one of the producers of the film, about the language. ‘Did you guys make it up?’ Nate replied, ‘that’s Xhosa, John Kani’s native language. He and Chad decided to do the scene like that on set, and we rolled with it.’ 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 actor.
I learned later that there was much conversation over how T’Challa would sound in the film. The decision to have Xhosa be the official language of Wakanda was solidified by Chad, a native of South Carolina, because he was able to learn his lines in Xhosa, there on the spot.”
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Contrary to what some have speculated, Coogler did not shoot around Boseman’s illness or even know the details. He says, “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.”
In fact, the director talks about a star who was always present, even when he did not need to be. He showed up to other cast meetings, turning Winston Duke’s audition into a wrestling match and getting his bracelet broken. And he insisted Wakandan soldiers dance at the King’s coronation, because, “If they just stand there with spears, what separates them from Romans?” It was also Boseman who decided where Killmonger would want to be buried.
In the end, he concludes, “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.”
Read the whole thing at The Hollywood Reporter for more. The feel free to add your own favorite memories in comments below.