Ryan Coogler, who directed Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther, wrote a beautiful tribute to the actor for Entertainment Weekly. Apparently, even Coogler didn’t know Boseman was battling colon cancer until the actor died on Friday.
Coogler wrote that he decided to direct Black Panther after seeing Boseman’s T’Challa in an unfinished cut of Captain America: Civil War, in which Boseman had learned the Nguni Bantu language Xhosa to show audiences that T’Challa was a leader whose nation and dialect had not been corrupted by colonialism. “It was at that moment I knew I wanted to make this movie,” Coogler said. “[E]ven though I hadn’t met Chad, I was already in awe of his capacity as an actor.”
Coogler and Boseman became closer on the set of Black Panther. “I noticed then that Chad was an anomaly,” Coogler wrote. “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.”
And, like so many of Boseman’s fans and friends, Coogler had no idea Boseman was sick:
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.
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.
Boseman was only 43.