On November 1, the 2018 IndieWire Honors ceremony will celebrate eight filmmakers and actors for their achievement in creative independence. We’re showcasing their work with new interviews and tributes from their peers this week.
When you’ve been around this film industry as long as I have, when you see new voices — new visions — you get so excited. I saw Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” when it first came out in 2013. I was interested in seeing this small independent movie produced and shepherded by Forest Whitaker, who has excellent taste, along with the work of a young filmmaker dealing with important historic subject matter. I loved it and thought it was a story well told.
Forest Whitaker'S Significant Prods./Og Project/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
And along comes “Creed,” which was a great indicator of what Ryan would do in the future. Attending the “Creed” premiere was an opportunity to support and meet this young man whose work so impressed me. I told him I hoped one day to have the opportunity to work with him. Soon, I got a call that Ryan was interested in me for Queen Ramonda. He and Joe Robert Cole were still writing “Black Panther;” there was no script coming any time soon. I wasn’t a big comic-book aficionado. They told me the ” Black Panther” story. It was pretty obvious Ryan had the goods. He’s the real deal. It would be an honor work to work with him on anything!
When I read the script, I was not prepared for what he and his collaborators had in mind. I had no idea what it was going to be. It exceeded any of our expectations. I knew there was a hunger for this to be made well with Marvel, with no expense spared, making sure it was successful. But it was definitely his vision.
Working with him was a dream. Ryan is a sensitive individual: kind, warmhearted. His heart is there on his sleeve. I can see his strengths and — this is no negative — his vulnerabilities. He’s a beautiful presence in the room. If he doesn’t have the answer, he says: “Allow me to think about that and get back to you,” and he gets back. He’s true to his word, listens intently. He’s just a beautiful man. You care about him: “Are you getting rest?” He works so diligently and so completely. He brings out the best in others. We all rallied behind him, because he just leads by beautiful example.
He had so many men and women around him! It was such a beautiful world that you don’t usually see, either with characters in front of the camera or behind the camera. The set was populated by strong, independent, brilliant women: first assistant director Lisa Satriano, costume designer Ruth Carter, cinematographer Rachel Morrison, editor Debbie Berman, and production designer Hannah Beachler, in departments that are usually heavily male. Ryan definitely welcomed a female voice, just as T’Challa does, and his beautiful wife Zinzi Evans was there by his side, as well as his brothers and family. They are integral to who he is as a human being and helped him to tell a rich story.
From the top down, the Marvel Universe gave Ryan nothing but absolute support and the belief that he was the man for the job. He had his vision, his voice. He did his thing. Whatever pressure he felt was internal: He put it on himself with his work ethic, wanting to get “Black Panther” right, not only for himself but for the audience and for the culture. He was telling a story we had never seen before. He had all of us behind him. He fought lions with a switch by his side.