Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Ryan Coogler: From Homeless College Student to Marvel Studios’ Youngest Filmmaker

[videowaywire video_id=”2A8F814508E559EB”] ryan coogler

*As Marvel Studios’ youngest filmmaker, “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler says he had no idea that filmmaking would one day be his calling.

He explains to Filmmaker Magazine that up until college he had aspirations to play football and become a doctor.

As a student-athlete at Saint Mary’s College, Coogler took a creative writing class during which he wrote about a time his father almost bled to death in his arms. Afterward, his professor asked what he wanted to do with his life and Ryan explained that he wanted to be a doctor, but his professor convinced him to consider screenwriting instead, reports msn.com.

When Saint Mary’s canceled its football program, Coogler transferred to Sacramento State on scholarship. It was there a professor told him about USC film school.

“It was either go there or play wide receiver,” he says. “I was short, my prospects weren’t the highest, so I jumped off that cliff and drove to L.A.”

During his first semester at USC, Ryan lived out of his car and made a series of short films. “Fig,” the latest, centers on a prostitute trying to leave the life and protect her daughter.

“That film is from deep research. I spent Christmas break on the streets and got a lot of stories. I never want to shy away from the truth.”

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After his first semester, an unarmed African-American male named Oscar Grant was shot to death by a police officer in Coogler’s hometown of Oakland. The incident inspired him to bring Grant’s story to life in his first feature film, “Fruitvale Station.

The critically acclaimed film caught the attention of actor and filmmaker Sylvester Stallone, who Coogler worked with for his second movie, 2015’s “Creed.” 

“It was a leap of faith,” Stallone told the Los Angeles Times of his decision to work with Coogler, who was just 29 at the time. “What Ryan was taking on was quite a lot for his second time out. You’re going against a tsunami of skepticism.”

For his third film, Coogler had an estimated $200 million budget to bring a black superhero story to the big screen.

“This is the first project that I ever did that I felt like I had to make peace with the fact that I would never be caught up in my work,” he tells The New York Times. “I had to figure out how to let myself rest. You could work 24 hours a day and it still wouldn’t be enough on a film like this.”

Coogler says he and his wife went back to the same comic book shop he used to visit as a kid and after purchasing the two “Black Panther” comic books that he could find, he took a picture and sent it to the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige.

“He’s making this movie for his 8-year-old self,” says Feige. “Most importantly, you do it for other 8-year-olds, to inspire the next generation the way we were inspired. And in this case, when Ryan was growing up, perhaps there weren’t that many of these heroes to be inspired by that looked like him.”

Worldwide, “Black Panther” made $404 million in its opening weekend, which is the highest opening of all time for a film released in February.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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