Days after Chadwick Boseman died from stage four colon cancer at the age of 43, his Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler, is joining the Hollywood community in mourning the tragic loss. Releasing a lengthy statement to THR, Coogler fondly recalled how he signed on to direct the Marvel film knowing that Boseman would be playing the lead role of T’Challa, and how what could’ve just been a standard director-actor relationship blossomed into a close and creative friendship. “I noticed then that Chad was an anomaly. He was calm. Assured. Constantly studying,” Coogler wrote. “But also kind, comforting, had the warmest laugh in the world, and eyes that had seen much beyond his years, but could still sparkle like a child seeing something for the first time.”
Coogler, who wasn’t aware of Boseman’s illness, remarked that the actor contributed numerous ideas for Black Panther’s “lines and different ways to add depth to each scene,” many of which were incorporated into the film. “After his family released their statement, I realized that he was living with his illness the entire time I knew him,” Coogler explained. “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,” Coogler concluded. “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.” Coogler’s entire tribute, which is absolutely worth reading in full, can be viewed here.