Ryan Coogler: Making Black Panther without Chadwick Boseman was uncomfortable

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Ryan Coogler has said he was not comfortable directing the second instalment of Black Panther after his lead actor Chadwick Boseman died.

The 36-year-old also became tearful while delivering Bafta’s David Lean Lecture and discussing Boseman, who died in 2020 aged 43 from colon cancer and played Marvel superhero King T’Challa.

He told the audience at Bafta’s Piccadilly HQ in London on Monday: “I found myself in a position that I wasn’t (comfortable when directing Black Panther: Wakanda Forever).

“I was a director without a lead actor, tasked to make a film about a hero when we’d just lost ours.

GQ Men of the Year Awards 2018 – London
Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman died in 2020 (Ian West/PA)

“That question motivated us to complete the film.”

Coogler, who has directed both Black Panther films to critical acclaim and box office success, also said he felt “deeply unworthy” to give the lecture after fellow directors Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee delivered the annual speech in previous years.

He said: “I feel like I’m standing right now in a place where maybe I shouldn’t be.

“It’s a feeling that I’ve grown accustomed to over my life and career.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – European premiere
The cast and crew at the European premiere of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Suzan Moore/PA)

Coogler added: “I still struggle with doubt, every day… I’ve dealt with disappointments, man, like big time, and… to be a filmmaker is to (be okay with) rejection.

“For every one acceptance letter, I got hundreds of no thank-yous from actors… and studios.”

Coogler also said he has had a “complicated relationship” with cinema and feels he has a “shared responsibility and opportunity” along with other black directors.

He added: “The medium of filmmaking is over 100 years old and quite often, for a large section of that time, the great and powerful medium of filmmaking has been used against black people, used to attack our identities, our sense of self, and our standing in the caste systems that exist around us.”

Paramount+ – UK Launch Event – London
Sylvester Stallone helped Coogler watch Lawrence Of Arabia before Black Panther (PA)

He said: “When I was getting ready to get hired to make Black Panther, I knew I wanted to make something that felt epic in scope.

“So (me and my wife) reached out to him and asked him if he could screen a print of it for us, he was more than happy to.

“(Stallone) was kind of like talking to me all the time. You know, it was fantastic.”

The David Lean Lecture carries on the legacy of the late director, one of the founders of the British Film Academy, as it was then known, in 1947.

It is funded by the David Lean Foundation, which supports and encourages excellence in British film-making.

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