Director’s Chair Introduction: Ryan Coogler

by Tony Cogan · November 14, 2022 · Director's Chair, Uncategorized · No Comments

Deadline: 17th December 2022

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Hello everyone, I hope you are doing well. Given the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, I’ve decided to highlight Ryan Coogler.

Going to university on a football scholarship, Coogler originally intended to study chemistry but, after being encouraged to take creative writing courses, he soon moved into studying film, eventually getting into the USC School of Cinematic Arts masters programme. Whilst there, he made three short films, one of which was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. Whilst he was studying, he heard the news about the death of Oscar Grant III and expressed a desire to make a film about his last day, working with Grant’s family and their attorney on the film. He soon gained the attention of Forest Whitaker’s production company, who were looking for emerging talents, with Whitaker coming on board as a producer. The film marked the start of Coogler’s collaborations with actor Michael B Jordan, composer Ludwig Goransson and production designer Hannah Beachler and DP Rachel Morrison, who have frequently worked with Coogler. Upon release, the resulting film, Fruitvale Station, was a massive critical hit, winning the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and winning and being nominated for numerous awards.

After the success of Fruitvale Station, Coogler approached MGM and Sylvester Stallone with a plan to bring back the Rocky series, focusing on the son of Apollo Creed, with Rocky Balboa acting as a mentor, with filming taking place in both Philadelphia and Liverpool. The film, Creed, was a critical and commercial success, with Stallone’s performance being particularly praised, earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Indiewire have ranked the script for Creed as one of the best scripts of the 21st Century and is has now spawned a new series of its own.

After the successful opening of Creed, Coogler entered negotiations with Marvel to direct Black Panther, after initial discussions with other directors, including Ava DuVernay and F Gary Gray cooled. When Coogler was brought on board, he did it on the condition that his go to team of talent behind the camera came with him, which Marvel agreed to, with the team adopting an Afrofuturist aesthetic. When the film was released, it was a critical and commercial success, becoming the highest grossing film from a Black director and becoming the first comic book film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. The film eventually won three Oscars (Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Best Original Score) and has become a cultural touchstone.

A few months after the release of Black Panther, Coogler and Marvel closed a deal for him to return for the sequel, with most of the creative team returning and initial script work started. However, tragedy struck with the death of Chadwick Boseman from colon cancer in August 2020. After a period of grief for Coogler, including a period where he considered leaving filmmaking altogether, it was decided to move forward with the sequel, without recasting Boseman, focusing more on the world of Wakanda and act as a tribute to Boseman. Filming got underway in 2021, although it was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and issues coming about following the new lead, Letitia Wright, being injured on set, in a manner more serious than originally thought, with their being reported issues over Wright not being able to return to set due to her not having been vaccinated for COVID. At the time of writing, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, has just been released, with the film being positively reviewed and it is looking to be a commercial success. Currently, it is reported that Coogler and Marvel are in negotiations for a third Black Panther film, with

Alongside his work as a director, Coogler has acted as a producer on Judas and the Black Messiah and Space Jam: A New Legacy and his production company has signed a deal to produce content for Disney, with Coogler acting as a producer on the upcoming Ironheart series and is developing a series focused on Wakanda.

As a reminder, the films of Coogler’s you can cover are listed below.

  • Fruitvale Station
  • Creed
  • Black Panther
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

I look forward to reading what you send me.