Black Panther director Ryan Coogler has paid a moving tribute to Chadwick Boseman, saying he has been left “broken” by his death.
Boseman’s family announced on Friday that the 43-year-old star had died following a private four-year battle with colon cancer.
The news sent shockwaves through a dazed Hollywood. Former US president Barack Obama was among those paying tribute, while Boseman’s Marvel co-stars also shared their memories of the actor.
Now, Coogler has shared his own tribute, writing a lengthy note about his time working with the actor.
The filmmaker said he “wasn’t privy” to the details of the actor’s illness, reflecting on how he worked with Boseman but had no idea he had cancer.
“After his family released their statement, I realised that he was living with his illness the entire time I knew him,” Coogler said.
“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 told how he inherited Boseman’s Black Panther casting, first seeing him in the role of T’Challa in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. He was impressed by Boseman insisting the character speak Xhosa, one of the official languages of South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Coogler said he learned the lines, in a foreign language, in a day. “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,” he added.
The pair met for the first after Boseman sneaked into a hotel while Coogler was promoting the film Creed.
“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.”
Coogler has been working on Black Panther 2, set for release in May 2022. However, it is now unclear how Disney will approach the film.
“I haven’t grieved a loss this acute before,” Coogler said, while discussing his work on the upcoming movie. “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.”
Coogler finished the message by describing Boseman as an “ancestor,” adding: “And I know that he will watch over us, until we meet again.”
Boseman’s Da 5 Bloods co-star Clarke Peters broke down as he paid tribute.
Talking about working with the late star, he told Good Morning Britain: “My wife asked what Chadwick was like and I was really excited to work with him.
“I said, ‘I think he’s a little bit precious’ and she said ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Because he’s surrounded by people who are fawning over him – a Chinese practitioner who’s massaging his back when he walks off set, he’s got a make-up lady who’s massaging his feet, his girlfriend is there holding his hand, and I’m thinking ‘Well, maybe the Black Panther thing went to his head.”
Getting emotional, Peters added: “But now I regret even having those thoughts because they were really looking after him.”
He said: “We’ve lost a very sweet soul. We’ve lost a fine actor, we’ve lost a man of integrity. What we’ve gained is a man who put a lot of younger people of colour on track.
“If everyone has a purpose in life, he certainly played the role of a hero in many, many ways.”
The actor added: “He had to be here for the time he was here to do what he did and he did it well. Someone said he’s resting in peace with the angels, I said ‘No, he’s probably flying with them now.'”