Director Ryan Coogler Image Credit: AP

‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler broke his silence to commemorate the late Chadwick Boseman. The actor unexpectedly died Friday after privately waging a four-year battle with colon cancer.

The duo had been expected to reunite for a sequel to the billion-dollar-grossing ‘Black Panther’. ABC has set a commercial free broadcast television premiere of the Marvel blockbuster for tonight, followed by a special tribute to the star.

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“I inherited Marvel and the Russo Brothers’ casting choice of T’Challa. It is something that I will forever be grateful for,” said Coogler in his statement. “The first time I saw Chad’s performance as T’Challa, it was in an unfinished cut of ‘Captain America: Civil War.’ I was deciding whether or not directing ‘Black Panther’ was the right choice for me.

“I’ll never forget sitting in an editorial suite on the Disney lot and watching his scenes. His first with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, then with the South African cinema titan, John Kani, as T’Challa’s father, King T’Chaka. It was at that moment I knew I wanted to make this movie.”

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Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther Image Credit: AP

Coogler further stated that he saw Kani and Boseman converse in a language he had never heard before. “In my meeting after watching the film, I asked Nate Moore, one of the producers of the film, about the language. ‘Did you guys make it up?’ Nate replied, ‘That’s Xhosa, John Kani’s native language. He and Chad decided to do the scene like that on set, and we rolled with it.’ I thought to myself, ‘He just learned lines in another language, that day?’ I couldn’t conceive how difficult that must have been, and even though I hadn’t met Chad, I was already in awe of his capacity as actor.”

Coogler stated he met Boseman in person in 2016, while he was promoting ‘Creed’.

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“He was a special person. We would often speak about heritage and what it means to be African. When preparing for the film, he would ponder every decision, every choice, not just for how it would reflect on himself, but how those choices could reverberate. ‘They not ready for this, what we are doing...’ ‘This is ‘Star Wars’, this is ‘Lord of the Rings,’ but for us ... and bigger!’”

Coogler added that he wasn’t privy to the details of Boseman’s battle with colon cancer. “After his family released their statement, I realised that he was living with his illness the entire time I knew him. Because he was a caretaker, a leader and a man of faith, dignity and pride, he shielded his collaborators from his suffering.”