Black Panther director Ryan Coogler has written an emotional tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who passed away from colon cancer at age of 43 last week.
Ryan revealed that not even he knew of Chadwick's cancer battle as he spoke of the actor's dedication to their historic Marvel project.
The director also spoke of the lasting impression Chadwick made on him both on screen and off.
Ryan wrote in a tribute for Entertainment Weekly, "I inherited Marvel and the Russo Brothers’ casting choice of T’Challa. It is something that I will forever be grateful for.”
He continued, saying the first scene he saw Chadwick in was one with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and South African actor John Kani as T'Challa's father King T'Chaka.
"It was at that moment I knew I wanted to make this movie. After Scarlett’s character leaves them, Chad and John began conversing in a language I had never heard before. It sounded familiar, full of the same clicks and smacks that young black children would make in the States. The same clicks that we would often be chided for being disrespectful or improper. But, it had a musicality to it that felt ancient, powerful, and African."
Ryan soon found out the language they were speaking was John's native language Xhosa, which Chadwick had learned for the scene 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 an actor," he said.
Ryan also found out that the decision to have Xhosa be the language of Wakanda was led by Chadwick, "He also advocated for his character to speak with an African accent so that he could present T’Challa to audiences as an African king, whose dialect had not been conquered by the West."
Ryan was finally able to meet Chadwick in 2016, he said, "I noticed then that Chad was an anomaly. He was calm. Assured. Constantly studying. But also kind, comforting, had the warmest laugh in the world, and eyes that seen much beyond his years, but could still sparkle like a child seeing something for the first time."
He continued, "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!'"
"I would nod and smile, but I didn’t believe him. I had no idea if the film would work. I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing. But I look back and realize that Chad knew something we all didn’t. He was playing the long game. All while putting in the work. And work he did," he said.
He added, "Chad deeply valued his privacy, and I wasn’t privy to the details of his illness. After his family released their statement, I realized 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. He lived a beautiful life. And he made great art. Day after day, year after year.
"That was who he was. He was an epic firework display. I will tell stories about being there for some of the brilliant sparks till the end of my days. What an incredible mark he’s left for us.
"I haven’t grieved a loss this acute before. I spent the last year preparing, imagining, and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see. It leaves me broken knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take."
Chadwick's family confirmed his passing on social media, revealing for the first time the actor's cancer battle.
"It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman," they wrote.
"Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV.
"A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.
"It was the honour of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther. He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side.
"The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time."
Chadwick never publicly spoke about having cancer, however, there was one interview where he seemed to hint at his secret battle.
"You came off of one Black Panther project, did Marshall and then made another Black Panther movie. Did you bulk up, slim down and then bulk up again?" Matt was asked, to which Chadwick responded exhaustedly, "Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah."
"You've been through the wringer," the reporter responded.
"Oh, you don't even know," Chadwick said. "You have no idea. One day I'll live to tell the story."
Of course, these words are now all the more heartbreaking as he'll never be able to share his experience.
Born in South Carolina, Boseman graduated from Howard University and had small roles in television before his first star turn in 2013. His striking portrayal of the stoic baseball star Robinson opposite Harrison Ford in 2013′s 42 drew attention in Hollywood.
His T’Challa character was first introduced to the blockbuster Marvel movies in 2016′s Captain America: Civil War, and his “Wakanda Forever” salute reverberated around the world after the release of Black Panther two years ago.
The MTV VMAs, held on Sunday, were dedicated to Chadwick with host Keke Palmer saying, "We need to talk about the devastating loss of Chadwick Boseman, an actor whose talent and passion is a true inspiration to all the fans he touched and everyone he encountered."
"We dedicate tonight's show to a man whose spirit touched so many. He is a true hero. Not just on-screen but in everything he did. His impact lives forever."