At age 34, Ryan Coogler's already one of the most outstanding overachievers in the film industry. We're happy to celebrate his accomplishments, including helming the highest-grossing film of all time by an African-American director.
How You Know Him
He's directed two films you've most definitely seen, and another you absolutely need to see if you haven't already. Coogler's the man behind the MCU's "Black Panther" and the boxing triumph "Creed," serving as the director and co-writer of both box office hits.
"Black Panther" was a world-wide phenomenon in 2018, grossing over $1.3 billion. "Creed" jump-started the "Rocky" franchise in 2015, telling the story of Apollo Creed's son, Adonis, ascending through the boxing ranks under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa. It earned over $170 million. Both films were critical hits and winners of multiple awards, including an Oscar nomination for Best Picture for "Black Panther."
Also heralded on the critical front is Coogler's extremely affecting, devastating debut film, "Fruitvale Station," which won the top audience and grand jury award at the 2013 Sundance Festival.
In all three of the films he's directed and written so far, Coogler's star has been Michael B. Jordan. The only time that wasn't fully the case was "Black Panther," where Jordan shared the spotlight with the late, irreplaceable Chadwick Boseman in the title role.
Their Life So Far
While Coogler's proved his talents behind the scenes, he's a real-life superhero on par with his leading stars offscreen. He grew up in and around the Oakland area, the son of a community organizer (mother Joselyn) and a juvenile hall probation counselor (father Ira).
He excelled as a student and an athlete, and attended college at Saint Mary's and Sacramento State on a football scholarship. He earned his bachelor's in finance, but also took as many film classes as possible, enrolling afterwards in a prestigious three-year post-graduate program at USC's School of Cinematic Arts.
Coogler's three SC short films won various awards at the Tribeca Film Festival and the American Black Film Festival, setting the young talent up for his breakthrough with "Fruitvale Station," a nearly documentary-like accounting of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a Black Oakland citizen who was murdered by authorities on a platform of the Fruitvale BART station on January 1, 2009.
The Movie to Watch
As we've already recommended the incredible "Fruitvale Station" when we highlighted Michael B. Jordan, we direct folks to take another look at "Black Panther" and appreciate everything it achieves. On the biggest canvas possible, for audiences of all kinds world-wide, the MCU's "Black Panther" is truly special. It is the first massive blockbuster that is represented by African-Americans in every way: director, writer, actors, filmmakers at every level. For the first time, minorities could celebrate seeing a huge superhero vehicle where they play all the roles. Finally, all of us could see the possibilities of inclusive cinema in the most commercial way possible. "Black Panther" delivered as A class entertainment with intelligence to spare and a worthwhile message about raising everyone up to a higher level. Bravo, Mr. Coogler.
What's Up Next
He's a producer on the upcoming and buzzed-about "Judas and the Black Messiah," which tells the story of the betrayal of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) by William O'Neal (Lakeith Stanfield), operating as an FBI informant.
On a lighter note, Coogler's producing "Space Jam: A New Legacy," which finds Bugs Bunny returning to the basketball court and pairing up with legend LeBron James.
Finally, Coogler and his constant collaborator Michael B. Jordan will reunite on "Wrong Answer," about the Atlantic Public Schools cheating scandal.
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About the Author
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.