Director Ryan Coogler has spoken about how the spirit of actor Chadwick Boseman was present all the way through the making of his new movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
- Read more: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever first reactions: “A beautiful tribute to Chadwick Boseman”
Boseman died of colon cancer in August 2020, aged 43, just two years after starring in Coogler’s Marvel blockbuster, Black Panther, in which he played the titular hero – also known as King T’Challa, the leader of fictional African nation Wakanda.
“We carried him [with us] every day,” says Coogler. “We talked about him every day. I know he was there from our perspective. And I’m thankful to have to been able to do this. I’ve lost people before where I wasn’t in a position to show the world how I felt about it. And on this one we did have an opportunity. And we didn’t want to miss that moment.”
There was never any question of recasting Boseman’s role with another actor, such was the esteem the actor was held in by fans around the world. “When we lost Chad, the film had to change, if we were going to move forward without the character that he played,” explains Coogler. “That was a decision that we made. And the film very much became a coming-of-age story.”
Coogler is referring to British actress Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s younger, tech-savvy sister Shuri. After Boseman’s passing, she was given an expanded role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which begins with the death of T’Challa from an unspecified illness.
Coogler also praised the “phenomenal” Rihanna for her work on the film. The ‘Umbrella’ singer, who came on board to pay tribute to Boseman, contributes to the soundtrack with her new single ‘Lift Me Up’, her first new solo music in six years.
“Making music is not something that I’m often a part of directly, but the collaboration and relationship I [had] with Rihanna on this was just a dream come true,” Coogler says. “And it was a perfect way to give something to Chad while giving something to audiences. It was very fulfilling.”
Coogler, however, refused to be drawn into responding to Avatar director James Cameron’s recent interview with The New York Times, where he suggested that Marvel and DC characters on film “all act like they’re in college”. “I’m here to talk about a movie,” Coogler says. “I’m not in the business of commenting on other people’s opinions. So I’m not gonna do that.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens in cinemas on November 11