Ryan Coogler wrote a lengthy, heartwarming tribute to Chadwick Boseman, whom he worked with closely while he directed the blockbuster film Black Panther. In the statement, Coogler reminisced about how impressed he was with Boseman before they met and how once they began working together they formed a special brotherhood.
“I noticed then that Chad was an anomaly,” Coogler said. “He was calm. Assured. Constantly studying. 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.”
Coogler also said he wasn’t aware of Boseman’s cancer diagnosis and that once he died on Friday August 28, 2020 he realized he knew Boseman the whole time he was battling the disease. Boseman had been battling colon cancer since 2016.
“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 revealed that Boseman had also auditioned for supporting roles for Black Panther. He had shot his shot to gain the role of M’Baku, which was ultimately given to Winston Duke. Coogler was surprised that a lead actor wouldn’t mind auditioning for smaller, supporting roles.
“He would come to auditions for supporting roles, which is not common for lead actors in big budget movies,” he continued. “He was there for several M’Baku auditions. In Winston Duke’s, he turned a chemistry read into a wrestling match. Winston broke his bracelet.”
Coogler expressed how hard it has been processing Boseman’s death in these past few days. He said that he had been thinking about different roles for Boseman to play and his ideas have been somewhat shattered.
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.
It hurts more to know that we can’t have another conversation, or facetime, or text message exchange. He would send vegetarian recipes and eating regimens for my family and me to follow during the pandemic. He would check in on me and my loved ones, even as he dealt with the scourge of cancer.
He added that he must “reckon with the fact that Chad is an ancestor now.”
We send our condolences to Boseman’s family. You can read Coogler’s full statement here.