Ryan Coogler traveled to Africa before writing Black Panther
The director talked about this and other stuff in Empire Magazine's new Black Panther special
Since the last few days, Empire Magazine has been sharing tidbits from their 2018 issue focusing on next year’s Black Panther. We’ve got a look at subscriber edition covers and a few pieces of info while the issue itself was set for release in 2018. The magazine is out now and true to its word, features special coverage of Black Panther including a few new behind the scenes details. Chief among those is the methodology director Ryan Coogler followed before stepping in to helm what is arguably one of the most significant superhero flicks in recent times.
Coogler revealed that despite being an African-American himself, he hadn’t explicitly stayed in Africa long enough to be familiar with its culture and roots. And while taking up the responsibility of directing the first black superhero film, he wanted it to be segued deep into African culture and values, wanting to reflect what it meant to be an African. It was paramount for him then, that he acquaint himself with the continent before beginning his work on the movie which is what he pushed for.
“None of my family had ever had the opportunity to go,” Coogler revealed to Empire. “So it was almost like a mythical place to us — to a lot of us, as African Americans. And that was a very big deal for me to be able to tell this story. I frankly didn’t feel qualified to do it just because I look like this.”
Having insisted this to and receiving approval from Kevin Feige, he stayed a few weeks across South Africa, embracing the culture and black ethos. Other members from the crew joined later on such as production designer Hannah Beachler. This largely came from a need to ensure black people were represented authentically and Wakanda was grounded in reality despite being a fictional nation, which is generally how Coogler works, seeing as he made a similar expedition to Philadelphia as homework for Creed.
“They’re represented in a way that’s damaging and hurtful. You’re dealing with all of that, so I wanted to make sure I got out there and spent some time.”
– Ryan Coogler on black people in Hollywood
Finally, Coogler touched upon what it meant to be Black as being one of the prime topics he wanted the movie to convey in almost every aspect imaginable.
“We’re trying to explore that through every means of communication. Through the music. Through the language. Through clothing. Through production design. Through the structures of the building and the color of walls. And through the ugly stuff, too. Through conflict. Through weapons. It’s all those things. We tried to look at both sides, and as you would with any human being or human society. You know what I’m saying?”
Interestingly, the movie’s lead Chadwick Boseman did something similar when he donned the mantle of King T’Challa a.k.a. Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War. Not only did he visit Africa, but he had also picked up on a distinctly African dialect which he developed further with his coach and ended up using in the movie.
Black Panther arrives in theaters on Feb 16, 2018.