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Posted: February 16, 2018

5 things to know about ‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Director Ryan Coogler attends the 'Black Panther' BFI preview screening held at BFI Southbank on February 9, 2018 in London, England.  (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Jeff Spicer/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Director Ryan Coogler attends the 'Black Panther' BFI preview screening held at BFI Southbank on February 9, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

By Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Marvel’s “Black Panther” is already one of the highest-rated movies from the franchise.

With high praise from critics, the film is on track to set box office records. It’s only the third movie from director and screen writer Ryan Coogler.

>> Read more trending news 

Here are five things to know about the filmmaker behind the blockbuster:

He’s only 31 years old.

Coogler was born on May 23, 1986, in Oakland, California, and grew up 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 told NPR. “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.’”

It was “Black Panther.” 

A teacher inspired Coogler to become a screenwriter.

While on a football scholarship at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California, Coogler took a creative writing class.

According to Filmmaker Magazine, Coogler was given an assignment to write about a personal experience, so he wrote about the time his father almost bled to death in his arms.

Later, the professor called him into his office and asked what Coogler wanted to do with his life.

“Play ball, become a doctor and be a positive influence in my community,” he replied.

Related: 5 ways ‘Black Panther’ celebrates and elevates black women

Coogler told the magazine he remembers her saying, “I think you should become a screenwriter. You can reach more people.” He thought she was crazy. “But I was always thinking about stories, so maybe there was something to it.”

His previous feature films are both critically acclaimed.

Coogler’s first feature film, “Fruitvale Station,” which stars Michael B. Jordan, was produced in partnership with Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker.

Coogler told Filmmaker Magazine in 2012 that the  film was especially close to his heart. It tells the true story of Oscar Grant, an unarmed man shot in the back by a police officer in Oakland, California.

The 2013 film holds a high 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and won multiple critics awards between 2013 and 2014.

Related:  Michael B. Jordan reveals what he had to give up for ‘Black Panther’

Coogler’s second feature film, “Creed,” holds a 95 percent Rotten Tomatoes critics rating and earned numerous awards following its 2015 release. His memories of watching “Rocky” movies with his father inspired him to write the film.

All three of Coogler’s feature films star Michael B. Jordan.

“Fruitvale Station,” “Creed” and “Black Panther” all star Jordan. According to Variety, Jordan will star in a fourth Coogler film, titled “Wrong Answer.”

The fourth project will be written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, also the writer for the new “Black Panther” series, and produced by Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B. The film is based on a group of Atlanta high school teachers who participated in the Atlanta Public Schools standardized test cheating scandal in 2006. 

Related: Brad Pitt, Michael B. Jordan sign on to Atlanta school cheating scandal movie

He traveled to Africa to research “Black Panther.”

"What does it mean to be African?" Coogler asked himself. “It was a question I couldn’t answer,” he told NPR.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Coogler said he wanted to make sure Wakanda, the fictional setting of the film, didn’t feel like it was a city. It needed to feel like a country.

The fictional country was also inspired by several African landmarks, including South Africa’s Three Rondavels (or Three Sisters) and the canyon Orbi Gorge.

Related: Photos: ‘Black Panther’ world premiere

“As many pictures of it as you've seen," he added, "there's nothing a camera can do for (you that) your eyes do, or being a person of African descent, what your body does when you touch down there. It's a feeling I couldn't put into words, but I tried to put it into the movie,” he told the LA Times.


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