There is a lot packed into Black Panther that’s bound to leave audiences in awe: Sweeping aerial views of the Afrofuturistic country of Wakanda, with glimmering skyscrapers set amid lush forests and golden savannahs. Waterfall cliff sides crowded with representatives of every tribe, dressed in colorful ceremonial garments and ornate armor, dancing and chanting and singing in unison. Gauzy moonlit sojourns into the spirit realm, where, under purple skies, panthers guide the way. For director Ryan Coogler, it’s watching you watch Black Panther that’s left him in awe.
“We’re so intimately involved with it that you feel close to all of it. As far as parts that give me chills, that’s tough,” he told ET’s Nischelle Turner the day after the movie’s premiere. “Anytime the audience reacted, because that was what was new for us. I’ve been sitting with my editors for a long time — it’s been a better part of a year — and we would do very small screenings, but as far as seeing it in a room with people, I almost forgot what that felt like.”
Coogler laughed. “I had a bunch of my family come down from the Bay and they were acting like they were in AMC or something, talking at the screen and yelling…But there was people standing up who I didn’t bring. I’m like, Wait! Who is that?!”
The director, 31, should brace for more of the same with the Feb. 16 release of Marvel’s latest offering rapidly approaching. Already, Black Panther has become the best-reviewed Marvel movie yet and is primed to set records at the box office, with fans clamoring to — finally! — see comic characters like T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and the Dora Milaje on the big screen. According to Coogler, more familiar faces almost made it in.
“Nobody that was in other movies,” Coogler clarified, referring to cameos from the likes of Iron Man, Captain America or The Hulk. (Both Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue, first seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross, from Captain America: Civil War, appear here.)
“Other people in the comic books, yes,” the director said. “That was something we definitely played around with in drafts. In early drafts, you look at everybody. You look at the whole rouges gallery and you want to try to get representation in there. Some of them I can’t really talk about, specifically.”
Coogler previous mentioned that he toyed with the idea of including Elijah Bradley aka Patriot, the American-born descendent of a Captain America-like super soldier. But “rogues gallery,” in comic book terminology, often refers to a hero’s roster of villains. Could another Black Panther foe have nearly made it to the screen? Like, say, Madam Slay? Kraven the Hunter? White Wolf? Speculate away…
And while we’re wildly speculating, could the Black Panther sequel — and there will be a Black Panther 2 — include one more important character: Storm? Disney’s Fox buyout should return the X-Men to Marvel Studios by the time a Phase Four slot frees up in 2020, meaning T’Challa’s queen (he marries the weather-manipulating mutant, Ororo Munroe, in the comics) could arrive in Wakanda to complicate things between the king and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).
If Coogler has started thinking about what the future holds, he isn’t letting on. Yet.
“Man, I’m just here to talk about Black Panther. That’s all I can talk about. That’s all I can think about!” Coogler playfully objected. “We gotta sell the movie and get it out there! That’s where my head is. I’m at the last stage of delivering the baby, you know what I’m saying?”