Black Panther: Ambitions and Pressures

Black Panther–Pressures on Film

Ryan Coogler: I think that pressure is real.  For me what I try to always do is keep it as a source of motivation, and then after that just kind of try to tune it out because if you think about it too much it would make it impossible for you to do your best work.

You can’t focus in on the details of the work and a film of this size with this much going on, there are so many small, micro decisions to be made, a lot of big decisions to be made and then, you know, just thousands of micro decisions along the process so you try to keep the pressure of it out of it, you know, so that you can make a, you know, a solid movie that works, that’s entertaining and that’s universal but at the same time it’s specific, you know.



RC:  One of the things that I thought about for this film was what does it mean to be African?  And I think that question was something that kind of motivated all the decision making that went into the film for me, you know.  It is a film that deals with identity, it deals with the concept of tradition, you know, innovation which I think in these themes, you know, although they’re very African ideas, they’re also, you know, human ideas.  I think so for me plays can think about that like, you know, what does it mean to respect traditions but at the same time, you know, maybe divert from those traditions when it becomes necessary or what does it mean to progress as a society but at the same time honor those traditions and not forget the importance in some of them and what does this concept of being African or the many other names that come with that identity.  You mentioned is this a black film.  It’s another word for somebody of African descent, you know, and I’m sure you guys have words for those concepts and you guys, you know, languages you know what I mean but for me it was about what does that mean, you know.  What does it mean?  And I think that’s a question that anybody could ask themselves even with their own heritage.  This is a question anybody could take on (inaudible), you know.  You know what does it mean to be Chinese, you know what I mean.  What does it mean to be German, you know, and what does it mean to be from the Philippines, you know, what effect does that have on me as a person, you know, and what effect does that have on me in terms of where I’m going and how the world views me so all of those things went into play with the film.


Researching African Culture


RC: The biggest thing that the film afforded me was research, you know, it was a rare opportunity, you know, to really dig into something that I always had curiosity about since I was a child, you know.  The last 2 movies that I made I started those out with questions but they were about things that I was obsessed with at the time but things that I became obsessed with, you know, in my adulthood, through experiences that I was going through recently.  You know, this idea of, you know, who am I, you know what I mean, like as – I had this question as a kid.  My parents kind of had to tell me, you know, you black, you come from Africa, you know what I mean, we’re here now and it was a thing it was like oh, okay, that’s who I am in this world but I always had a profound curiosity about the continent but I’d never been until I signed onto this film, you know, and I talked for me to do this, you know, efficiently I think I need to go to the continent, spend some time there, do some research and they said great, you know, so I got to go for the first time and I got to – what was that now?  Oh, so I went to South Africa first.  I went to a country called the Kingdom of Lesotho and then I went to Kenya, spent some time in Kenya and then I came back to the States but I was able to put together some things for the story but more than that able to put together some things about myself that’s changed me and the way I look at the world forever.




RC: It’s a huge responsibility and it’s one I feel very fortunate to be able to do, you know, and like I said man, I was that kid, you know what I mean.  So for me it was something that I tried to make partial, you know, the whole time I tried to think about, you know, the kid that I was then, the man that I am now, you know, and really who I was before and after I went to the continent, you know, I spent time there.  I think that I felt honored to be able to be allowed to make this film.  I try not to think that it was the first time that something like this was happening too much, you know, because I think that also can get tricky, you know, you think of all the pressure and everything and so I tried to stay positive and really focus in on the work; really focus in on making something that’s entertaining and I wanted, you know, and this is to Kevin Feige’s credit, you know, the head of Marvel Studios, you know, one thing I remember having a conversation with Kevin, he says look, man, I got a son who’s young and, you know, and white, you know, but I want him to look up to childhood as much as, you know, as much as you would, you know, and for me looking at the film it seems – I mean, it’s a challenge like to (inaudible) as a person I think anybody could get behind, you know, though he has a cultural specificity, you know, I think the themes that he’s dealing with, the things that he represents are universal, you know what I mean.  I think the themes that make him cool are awesome.  When I was young, you know, my favorite superheroes, you know, all of them were white.  The ones I went to movies and stuff, you know, like the X-Men movies, I love Wolverine, I love, you know, Batman and Superman and those guys and I didn’t think about the fact that they were, you know, when I say I love Batman, I didn’t think about the fact that Batman was white, you know what I mean.  I just loved Batman because he had cool gadgets and had a cool suit and seemed to do what was right, you know.  That said when you look at whole aggregate of all of this stuff you realize like wait, none of these people look like me unless you’re (inaudible) some representation, you know, but when you’re consuming the stuff, when you’ve fallen in love with the stuff you’re not thinking about what they look like really, man.  It’s like (inaudible) is doing really cool, you know what I mean.  I want to be like him.  I want to put the suit on, you know, so hopefully it can work that way.  I’m confident that it will work that way, you know, for other fans I think.


Choosing Locations:


RC: In choosing filming locations a lot of things come into play.  For us we wanted to make our money stretch the best it could, you know, and make the best decisions according to the story as well and, you know, we have a big section of the film that takes place in South Korea, you know, so we shot some second unit stuff there for the car chase.  Our landscape settings in, you know, our waterfall in the film is based on, you know, is based on Victoria Falls.  A lot of the mountainous regions in the (inaudible) rain forest are based on locations in Africa so we sent our play units, you know, our second unit film crews to photograph those elements to get the people, to get the landscapes but like other Marvel films we did the majority of our work, our stage work, in Georgia, you know, due to the tax credit because it has a tax credit that really lets you get a lot of your money back because we wanted the most bang for our buck on the film.  I think, you know, like on these films a lot of stuff comes in a plate but I was really happy with the, you know, with the result.  I’m happy that we were able to go to the continent and rent cameras.


Marvel Family


RC: There is a Marvel family, people who work with the studio and have made films and projects, you know, and when I saw the studio there’s a family atmosphere there.  It feels, I mean you think of it as a big machine because they make so much, they make such big movies but when you really go there it’s a small studio, you know.  You got Kevin who heads it up and then you got, you have Victoria Alonso, you got Louis D’Esposito and as far as decision makers that’s kind of it, you know, which is small compared to other studios.  It’s kind of like a small production studio, you know, but the film has turned into these massive (inaudible) like once they get going, you know, and they have folks that, you know, that work on each film.  In our case we were blessed to have an amazing, you know, an amazing executive producer Nate Moore who brought me onto the project but it is that kind of atmosphere and you work all the time, you know, so you see the guys like, you know, I will see (inaudible) all the time, I see John Anthony Russo (sp?) all the time as they’re finishing up their film and, you know, you see the guys in the halls, the people who have done before, you know, will talk to you and give you advice, you know, here’s what to look out for, you know, here’s where it can get tough, you know, and the films are interconnected, you know, so, you know, a lot of times you got to communicate in terms of, you know, what your character’s doing, you know, where you’re leaving a character off so, you know, and in the case of our film that we were really encouraged.  Everybody was really excited to see us come in, see us get casted, you know, they kind of high five each other you know when any kind of good news happens, when the trailer gets released, you know, so it is very much you feel like you’re all on the same – a part of the same family.


Cheering at Rocky:


RC: I was a big Rocky fan.  I didn’t watch those in the theatres but I watched them at home with my dad and we would yell at the TV.  The TV was this big but movies in the theatre that we cheer.  I will say comic book movies, you know, like those were the kind of ones, you know.  You know, I loved a lot of the MC movies, man.  I remember being at like a real raucous crowd and all that’s done at film school.  I remember that like it was yesterday, you know, cheering for stuff that (inaudible) like seeing Ironman blast off, you know, and I think “The Dark Knight,” first time I saw a “Dark Knight” I saw at like 3:00 AM on an Imax screening.  It was nothing but a bunch of fans, you know, me and my wife who was my fiancee at the time.  You know, with a bunch of fans, man, just going nuts, you know, every time something cool happened, it was a cool shot and Heath Ledger did something cool or Batman did something cool, you know, so I remembered all those moments and I was like one of the loudest ones, you know.


Female Characters


RC: We pulled them from source material.  (Inaudible) imagine, you know, characters that happen to be female in (inaudible) and in these various runs.  In the most recent run that’s written by (inaudible)  that the women are really paramount to the story and what we wanted to do was, you know, build a society that’s both based off of the source material  and also pulled from historical content, you know, looking at the history of women in their role in African society, you know, specifically pre-Colonial African society and we saw, you know, tons of examples of women who had high ranking political positions, were respected as warriors, you know, and we kind of wanted to push that idea forward in this film.  You know, for me T’Challa was he’s basically a guy who works with his family, you know, like, you know, our film is somewhat of a family story and when you look at I mean you say African societies, you could say societies that are African diaspora but I truly believe any society that’s functioning well you’ll see that women are, you know, tend to be the backbone of it, you know.  They tend to be the ones that are doing that they work to keep the family together, you know, keep the family afloat and they keep society functioning and so we really want to represent that, you know.  It’s a movie it’s about a king but he’s able to be king, you know, because of these incredible women that are around him, you know, and these women who kind of were empowered to be great at the things they choose to be great at, you know, so we thought that could be a really interesting way to tell a story.




RCL Rach person was a different process.  We first Chadwick was already cast in the film “Captain America:  Civil War.”  He was cast by John Anthony Russo and Kevin and Nate Moore and then his father played by John Kani was also cast in that film.  They have scenes together.  Florence Kasumba (inaudible) as the second in command of the (inaudible).  She was also cast in that movie so we basically had like 3 (inaudible).  Saw what they looked like and saw how they interacted and it was a great rotation of what we could do (inaudible) and flush out the whole world, you know.  I knew Lupita, (inaudible), met her while I was on the press rounds for my first feature film “Fruitvale Station” and she was on a press tour for “12 Years A Slave” so we would see each other and talk and, you know, her and my fiancee would talk, you know, talk about maybe down the road doing something together, you know, so when this came up I thought that this role of Nakia would be perfect for her.  Also kind of had Danai Gurira in mind for Okoye.  I had seen Danai in a film called “Mother Of George,” a small film that went to Sundance when I was at Sundance with “Fruitvale” also 2013 made by an incredible Nigerian-American film-maker but, you know, she was great in that.  I knew she was in “The Walking Dead.”  I hadn’t seen any of her episodes because I am like not up to date on that show but I thought that she would be very perfect for Okoye so I kind of wrote that role for her.  Daniel Kaluuya who I knew his work from quite a few films and, you know, before this and before “Get Out” came up so the most recent thing he had done was “Sicario” and I loved him in that so I thought that he would be great for this role of W’Kabi so I kind of wrote that role with him in mind.  Andy Serkis was already cast from “Age Of Ultron” so he was already on call and then Martin Freeman was already cast as well as Agent Ross.  He played in “Captain America:  Civil War” so I inherited those guys.  Letitia Wright who played Shuri we had to find.  It was really intense, you know, auditioning process to find her.  I’m thankful that we did because I thought she was really right for the role and Winston Duke who plays M’Baku we also had to find.  We needed somebody who has the right stature and also a great physical presence, you know, that contrasted with T’Challa so we were happy to find Winston so that was kind of the story of how we cast the main leads and Angela Bassett who played Ramonda we needed somebody just with a queenly stature and presence was kind of what we were looking for and somebody who is in the comic books Ramonda is quite a bit younger than T’Chaka so we wanted somebody who kind of reflected what she was in the comics but still had, you know, the presence to demand  respect like almost instantly from anybody else in that cast, you know, and that was kind of how we ended up with Angela and it was really, you know, I had met her in Victoria Alonso, one of our producers, like, you know, I really thought that she would be powerful as well, you know, so we were able to get her here and (inaudible), you know, it was really just, you know, knowing that the role of N’Jobu was right for him, you know, in going from there.


Cinematographer Rachel Morrison


Rachel Morrison who’s our cinematographer I worked with before on my first film and she’s extremely talented.  I was kind of in awe of how good she was.  But she got pregnant right around the time we were shooting so she wouldn’t have been able to shoot it so I ended up working with Marisa Alberti for that film and for this one when the time came around to crew up for this one Rachel wasn’t pregnant, you know, and so we hired her.  It was kind of that simple.


There’s nothing specific where you could say that’s a woman’s perspective.  I think, you know, Rachel she’s really good at her job, you know.  She lights beautifully.  She does have different, a different aesthetic that you will find in superhero films which I thought was cool, you know, but she can light anything, you know.  You can do it any way you want, you know, so it’s kind of, you know, she’s very versatile and I think that the way she runs our crew is really that’s probably where you could see a woman’s touch I think, you know, in terms of just how respectful she is, how everybody feels, how everybody feels, values on our crew, you know what I mean, and they respect her tremendously and she never has to raise her voice, you know what I mean, she’s very strong and in command but in a way that’s totally grateful, you know, and she has so much talent that you just got to respect it.  You know, she can move, she can light very fast, she can deal with incredible hardships very quickly, you know what I mean, and able to make snap decisions that are kind of always the right way and when things get stressful you know she has a centering, a very centering quality to her, you know.  We can make it easier on a film I think, you know, and in terms of Lesotho, you know, I found a lot of incredible things there like there was a tribe in Wakonda whose look was inspired by, you know, the people that I saw there in the Lesotho tribe with the blankets, the elaborate blankets.  Yes.


Comic Book and Town of Black Panthers


RC: More than anything we based the film off the comic book, you know.  I think that the comic book came on the same like 1966 was around the same year that the organization in my hometown came up, I mean was formed should I say.  I think Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in all of their work I think that they were inspired by real world issues and real things that were going on.  I think it was kind of a zeitgeisty, you know, kind of idea to have a character like this at that time and I think some of the issues of, you know, African people all over the country definitely, I mean, all over the world definitely influenced their work there but more than anything I think this is a film that’s, you know, it’s a Marvel movie, you know, first and foremost, you know, it’s going to occupy the space in the MCU and T’Challa always has been a political leader even in the comic books, you know.  It was a book where, you know, you didn’t shy away from things that were going on, you know, politically because he is a king, he is a politician, you know what I mean, who has to deal with those things and he is an African man, you know, but I think as far as inspiration, you know, I think that this is pulling from the culture and things that are going on in the zeitgeist in the ’60s when the character was formed and, you know, we pull from the culture now.