“I Had To Figure Out How To Let Myself Rest” Ryan Coogler Shares How He Went From Living In His Car To Bringing In $404 Million With “Black Panther”
I think what I love most about Ryan Coogler is that even though he’s behind the record-breaking Black Panther movie that hit theaters last weekend, he still plays it humble, repeatedly expresses his love for the work he does and those who help him bring his visions to life and doesn’t seem to believe his own hype just yet. Even over a week later you can still scroll through social media and witness fans descending on theaters for their third and fourth viewings dressed like the “Dora Milaje”. Michael B. Jordan is flashing his dimples everywhere from NBA All-Star weekend to Twitter to check naysayers who try to discredit his greatness with his living situation with his parents. Winston Duke just earned himself a gang of a new girlfriends. But for Coogler it’s on to the next as he takes a moment to enjoy his success, but is clear that it’s back to business for him.
At one time comic books were merely a hobby for Coogler who revealed to Filmmaker Magazine that until college his career goals included football player or doctor. During his undergrad at Saint Mary’s College, Coogler took a creative writing class in which he wrote about a time his father almost bled to death in his arms. A professor took notice of his talent and asked him what he wanted to do with his life and suggested that screenwriting be added to his prospective career choices.
Afterward, his professor called him into her office and asked what he wanted to do with his life. He explained that he wanted to be a doctor, but she convinced him to consider screenwriting instead. After a transfer to Sacramento State on a scholarship after St. Mary’s canceled its football program, Coogler decided to drive to L.A. to try USC Film School on the advice of a professor. He lived out his car for a year and used the experience as inspiration for several short films before the shooting death of Oscar Grant inspired him to create Fruitvale Station, a movie that chronicled the incidents leading up to Grant’s death. Coogler, who was 27-years-old at the time hired friends to work on the film that went on to receive accolades from several festivals and film entities including Sundance, the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards. Soon after came Creed which Coogler directed when he was only 29-years-old which came in third at the box office it’s opening weekend and exceeded the $39 million it was expected to make that weekend. With his latest success, Coogler says he’s learning to get comfortable with feeling like his work is unfinished. He told the New York Times that as big as Black Panther is, there was a feeling that it could always be more:
“This is the first project that I ever did that I felt like I had to make peace with the fact that I would never be caught up in my work.”
“I had to figure out how to let myself rest. You could work 24 hours a day and it still wouldn’t be enough on a film like this.”
Coogler shared with Entertainment Weekly that after getting the call to direct the film he and his wife took a trip to the comic book store he visited as a kid where he purchased the only two Black Panther comic books he could find, snapped a picture and sent it to the Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios. His excitement and passion are proof that he is indeed “doing it for the culture” and showing young people everywhere their short stories, doodles and creativity are not a waste of time.
So what’s next for Coogler? He and favorite leading man Michael B. Jordan went their separate ways for Creed 2 for because of scheduling conflicts, but they’ll meet up again for Wrong Answer, a film Variety states “focuses on the 2006 standardized test cheating scandal at Atlanta public schools.” Jordan will play teacher Damany Lewis, who joined the effort in order to prevent his school from shutting down under provisions of the No Child Left Behind law. Eleven teachers were indicted on racketeering allegations. Best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates, the writer of Between The World And Me as well as a number of other books is on board to write the script.