Director Ryan Coogler Says ‘Black Panther’ Brought Him Closer To His Roots

Here's How 'Black Panther: The Album' Came Together

As a kid in Oakland, Calif., Ryan Coogler hung out at a comic book shop near his school, reading about superheroes who looked nothing like him.

“As I got older, I wanted to find a comic book character that looked like me and not just one that was on the sidelines,” Coogler says. “And I walk in and ask the guy at the desk that day, and say, ‘Hey man, you got any comic books here about black people, you know, like with a black superhero?’ And he was like, ‘Oh, yeah, as a matter of fact, we got this one.'”

That guy handed him a copy of Black Panther. And today, Coogler is the director of the Marvel movie adaptation about T’Challa — the king of fictional African nation Wakanda — who dons a super-science-powered suit to protect his people.

This superhero movie is actually a new challenge for Coogler, who’s only 31 years old. He got a ton of praise for his first film, Fruitvale Station, about an unarmed black man killed by a transit cop in Coogler’s hometown of Oakland. Then, he directed Creed, the latest Rocky movie — and now, Black Panther, which many hope will be a cultural turning point.

And Coogler says he’s feeling the pressure of those expectations. But, he adds, “for me, the pressure’s always been there, ’cause I’m in a career that’s unexpected, in terms of where I’m from and what I look like, you know, how old I am. So I’ll always feel pressure. I’ll always feel like I’m up against odds that are kind of insurmountable and, ‘Man, if I don’t get this right, I might not ever work in this town again.’ But you kind of got to tune that stuff out.”

Interview Highlights

On travelling to Africa to research the film

For me, it was about this question of “What does it mean to be African?” It was a question I couldn’t answer. When I was taking this project, it was a question I needed to answer about myself, you know, which is the personal connection that I’m talking about. And it’s a question that sounds specific, but it’s actually universal for a lot of reasons. … I mean if you ask yourself, “Now what does it mean to be Ukrainian?” or “What does it mean to be Eurasian?” it’s a deep question, right, if you think about it. It’s not a question you can answer with one word. But it’s a question you can spend your life trying to figure out, and have fun doing it, I truly believe.

On the importance of Black Panther having his own movie

For one, like, this medium of superhero films and this blockbuster medium, it’s just myth-making but on terms that are current. That’s why these movies make a lot money. That’s why people talk about them, you know what I mean, people dress up as them.

Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa in Black Panther.

Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

You look at any society in any period of time, they had their version of how they did their myth-making. Whether it was vaudeville, whether it was plays, whether it was on the plains of Africa … and it was griots, you know, beating the drum and telling stories. That was their version of myth-making. Right now, it’s these big, huge, large-canvas films that you go see in IMAX, that you go see in 3-D.

And there’s a massive audience — not just of people of color but everybody — who wants to see different perspectives in this myth-making. They want to see something fresh, they want to see something new, but also feels very real. You walk around in this world, and you see people who look like me — all the time. I’m from the Bay Area man, where we’ve got a very successful basketball team right now. The Golden State Warriors run out there, run up and down the court, [and] it’s a bunch of black dudes. But everybody in the stadium — even though it’s in Oakland — there’s very few black people in that stadium. But everybody’s wearing they jerseys and experiencing the emotions that they feel. You know, when Steph Curry hits a shot, it’s a little white kid or a little Asian kid in there that feel like they just made the shot.

On the state of representation in entertainment

I mean, there was a time in sports when black people weren’t allowed to play on professional teams, you know what I mean. You go down the line in every sport, there was a time when it was like a crazy idea to let a black person run out there and put a jersey on. You know, it was a time when professional teams would say, “We won’t make any money if we put a black person out there.” You know, it took that one to happen and then they looked around and was like, “Wait, we’re making more money — we gotta do this more. Oh yeah, people will cheer for a person who doesn’t look like them.” I mean, I know I watched superhero movies and did all the time.

The Talon Fighter flies over Wakanda in Black Panther.

©Marvel Studios 2018

On the creation of Wakanda

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who invented the character and invented Wakanda, they were two Jewish-American artists who were in the States — in New York — and pulling from the things that they were seeing around them to make these stories. I’ve met Stan Lee, and I know that he was tapping into the zeitgeist, purposefully, of what he saw African-Americans and people all over the world going through. He kind of came up with this pulpy concept, and … when you really think about it, man, it is something that’s based on circumstance. Like it’s fiction, that has base in reality. Africa’s a continent that’s known for its resources, you know. It’s very rich in terms of any kind of resource that you can get out of the ground that has value. You’re going to find it in abundance somewhere on that continent, whether it’s oil, whether it’s rubber, whether it’s gems or precious metals.

It led to colonization and exploitation. It led to borders being drawn, not by the people who are from there, you know. And it led to the mental horrors of colonization, which comes with being told that you’re less than, and not worthy of, and losing your language — losing your heritage, and the cousin of colonization, which is a very scary relative of it, is the theft of bodies, is what happened to my ancestors.

That said, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, they were aware of all these things. And they tapped into something when they said “Man, what if that never happened to a place? What if a place had something really cool, had a cool mineral, you know, had a coltan, had a gold, had a diamond and they never were conquered and they found a way to manipulate it, and stay separate from the world and grow and become great?” And … found a way to maintain that, what kind of conflict would that bring about? You know, it was Afro-futurism. It was all these great things that amazing writers have built on, and built on, and built on, in the 60 years since they did that.

L to R: Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) in Black Panther.

©Marvel Studios 2018

On filming Black Panther from the perspective of Wakandans

I think perspective is everything — perspective and proximity to whose story you’re watching, it’s one of the gifts that cinema has. Like for me, I never left the country until I made a film that got into a festival that was outside the country. How I used to travel was through watching movies, and I like the movies that put me right on the ground. I like City Of God, I like Un Propheteyou know, these films that put you like right in the zone. You’re experiencing it with the people who it’s about.

On whether he feels like he can go back to making smaller, indie films after Black Panther

Yeah, I mean I think intimacy can be achieved in a film on any budget. I feel, personally, like I have some of my most intimate scenes I’ve ever made in this movie. You know, I just want to make films that resonate with me, that are interesting to me, that deal with themes that I’m passionate about.

Like, I mean this movie brought me closer to my roots. This movie took me to the continent of Africa, which is somewhere I wanted to go since my mom and dad sat me down and told me I was black, you know what I mean? So I hope to make movies that’ll challenge me as an artist and as a person. That’s really what I hope to do.

Jay Z stands with Kaepernick and turned down offer to perform at 2018 NFL Super Bowl. 

JAY-Z had an offer on the table, and the rapper/mogul has allegedly declined.Metro UK claims that the star had been offered to play halftime at the Super Bowl in February, but Jay decided against it.

According to ‘an insider’ for The Sun, “Lots of people have been saying Jay will perform with Justin Timberlake, but it is simply not the case. ‘He has enough songs to create an incredible performance but he really has no plans to do the half-time show.”

Jay’s superstar wife Beyonce has played the Super Bowl twice over the past five years–as the main halftime performance back in 2013 and alongside Coldplay and Bruno Mars in 2016.

At the 2017 Meadows Music & Arts Festival this past weekend, Jay gave a aparticularly well-received performance. One standout moment of the night was Jay performing “The Story of OJ.” He dedicated the song to embattled NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the late comedian Dick Gregory, who died in August.

“I want to dedicate this song to Colin Kaepernick tonight,” Hov said before performing the song. “I want to dedicate this [song] to Dick Gregory. I want to dedicate this song to anyone that was held back and you overcame.”


Kanye West Files $10Mil Countersuit After Canceling His Saint Pablo Tour

A Lloyd’s of London syndicate filed a countersuit disputing Kanye West’s claim that he is owed $10mil  after canceling his Saint Pablo tour last year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.


The insurers did not reveal the nature of their findings “in order to protect the privacy of Mr. West from public disclosure of details of his private life,” but Lloyd’s implied that West might have violated various insurance policy exclusions related to pre-existing conditions and the use of alcohol and drugs.

The company also alleged that the rapper’s camp is impeding an investigation of the incidents that led to the tour’s cancellation. “[West’s team] have delayed, hindered, stalled and or refused to provide information both relevant and necessary for underwriters to complete their investigation of the claim,” the countersuit asserts. “… These same persons have willfully concealed and or misrepresented relevant facts in an effort to thwart underwriters’ investigation.”

Reps for Lloyd’s and West did not immediately reply to requests for comment. West’s lawyer Howard King, though, hit back in a statement. “[Lloyd’s does not] want to honor a legitimate claim but can’t find a factual basis to deny a claim,” he said.

West ended the Saint Pablo tour in November 2016 and checked into a psychiatric center at UCLA. His company Very Good Touring Inc. filed a loss claim with Lloyd’s two days later.

West’s suit against Llyod’s was reported on August 1st. The rapper’s complaint alleges that Lloyd’s has failed to provide “anything approaching a coherent explanation about why they have not paid, or any indication if they will ever pay or even make a coverage decision, implying that Kanye’s use of marijuana may provide them with a basis to deny the claim and retain the hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance premiums paid by Very Good.”

West’s suit also including a dark warning for other singers and rappers: “Performing artists who pay handsomely to insurance companies within the Lloyd’s of London marketplace to obtain show tour ‘non-appearance or cancellation’ insurance should take note of the lesson to be learned from this lawsuit: Lloyd’s companies enjoy collecting bounteous premiums; they don’t enjoy paying claims, no matter how legitimate.”

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