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Black Panther director Ryan Coogler pays tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman

Black Panther cowriter and director Ryan Coogler shared a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman on Sunday.

The 34-year-old filmmaker spoke about being awed at the Boseman’s flexibility as a performer and his ability to learn lines in an African language on the day of a shoot.

‘I spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see,’ Coogler wrote of the actor, who died on Friday, four years after he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Coogler’s first memories of Boseman were when he saw an unfinished cut of his scenes in Captain America: Civil War, where he was introduced as T’Challa, a.k.a., Black Panther.

‘I was deciding whether or not directing Black Panther was the right choice for me. I’ll never forget, sitting in an editorial suite on the Disney Lot and watching his scenes,’ he wrote.

The Creed director was impressed by a scene in which Boseman and South African acting legend John Kani spoke in a different language after Scarlet Johansson’s character left.

‘It sounded familiar, full of the same clicks and smacks that young black children would make in the States. The same clicks that we would often be chided for being disrespectful or improper. But, it had a musicality to it that felt ancient, powerful, and African,’ Coogler said.

He later learned it was a real language, Xhosa, which is primarily spoken in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and Coogler was impressed that Boseman and Kani had decided to speak in the language on set that day without advance preparation. 

‘”He just learned lines in another language, that day?”‘ Coogler asked one of the producers, shocked. ‘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.’

Coogler’s decision to take on Black Panther was strengthened after he learned that Boseman had been responsible for making Xhosa the language of Wakanda because he was able to learn it for his lines.

The 42 star also wanted T’Challa to speak with ‘an African accent, so that he could present T’Challa to audiences as an African king, whose dialect had not been conquered by the West.’

While Coogler was doing press for Creed, Boseman snuck back past journalists to spend some time with him and to discuss his past, including his studies to be a director at Howard University, though he later honed in on acting.

‘I noticed then that Chad was an anomaly,’ wrote the Fruitvale Station director. ‘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. 

According to Coogler, Boseman could barely contain his excitement as filming for Black Panther was under way.

‘”They not ready for this, what we are doing…,”‘ he remembered the star saying on set. ‘”This is Star Wars, this is The Lord Of The Rings, but for us… and bigger!”‘

‘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 wrote.

According to the director, Boseman ‘deeply valued his privacy,’ and so he was never alerted to his cancer diagnosis.

‘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,’ he continued.

‘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.’

‘I haven’t grieved a loss this acute before,’ Coogler added, while bemoaning the fact that Boseman would never read the new lines he wrote for T’Challa.

Coogler concluded his tribute by referencing a tradition in African cultures of referring to deceased loved ones as ancestors, even if they’re not blood relations.

‘I had the privilege of directing scenes of Chad’s character, T’Challa, communicating with the ancestors of Wakanda. 

Despite being on an artificial set, his performance made everything seem 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,’ he wrote. 

‘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.’

Also paying their respects to Boseman were his directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who initially cast him as T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War and again directed him in Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel Endgame.

‘This is hard to process,’ the brothers wrote in a statement to People. ‘Chadwick was an incredibly elegant and thoughtful individual who conveyed dignity and integrity in a way that very few could. A tremendous talent who inspired a generation to stand up and be king.

‘He understood something unique and noble about life, and was determined to use his talents in ways that impacted. He had so much to give…’

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