10 Things You Need To Know About Ryan Coogler

Written by Dana Sanchez

The “Black Panther” movie tore through box office expectations last weekend “with a pair of vibranium claws,” earning at least $370.8 million worldwide, and that’s expected to climb on Monday due to the Presidents Day holiday, Disney is projecting.

The film’s director, Ryan Coogler, “should be able to make whatever he wants at any studio he wants, and his agents should be making absolutely sure his payment is commensurate with his abilities and box office performance,” BuzzFeed reported.

Here are 10 things you need to know about Ryan Coogler.

Ryan Coogler
Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” Danai Gurira (Okoye) on set with Director Ryan Coogler. Photo: Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios 2018

Coogler’s net worth

There’s no clear answer about this. It depends who you ask. Coogler’s net worth is $10 million, according to an undated Celebrity Net Worth report. The Los Angeles-based website claims to have its numbers thoroughly researched, scrutinized and fact-checked by its team of writers and financial analysts.

AlphaLife puts Coogler’s net worth at $4 million in 2018 — the same as it was in 2017.

Coogler started his college journey intending to study chemistry on a football scholarship

Coogler attended Saint Mary’s College of California. His English professor, Rosemary Graham, talked him out of chemistry, encouraging him to pursue a career in screenwriting. He told the LA Times what happened in a July 2013 interview:

“I was really into football, and I liked chemistry. I figured if football didn’t work, I could go to medical school. I got a football scholarship to St. Mary’s College. They made us take this creative writing class taught by Rosemary Graham. She said: “I want you all to write about your most emotionally intense experience; I want to check out your writing.” She also said something about football being a barbaric sport, and we got into a little argument.

“I turned in the assignment and was hanging out in my dorm room, and I got a call from her. ‘I want you to come to my office.’ I thought I was in trouble for what I’d written, so I was a little nervous. Actually, I was really nervous. I went to her office, and she says, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I thought, ‘Oh, now I’m in all kinds of trouble.’

I said I wanted to be a doctor. She got my assignment and said: ‘This is really visual; that’s rare to be able to do that. You should think about becoming a writer instead of a doctor.’ She said: ‘Maybe you could even go to Hollywood and write screenplays.'”

Coogler watched movies and TV with his parents a lot

His dad took him to “Malcolm X” and “Boyz n the Hood” when he was 5 or 6. “I was crying in the theater for Malcolm X,” he told LA Times. “My dad likes sports movies, and we watched all the ‘Rocky’ movies. My mom liked Scorsese movies, and I watched with her. And ‘The Twilight Zone’ — I watched that with my parents all the time. I’ve seen every episode. When I got to film school, I bought them all on DVD.”

How he wrote his first script

Although Coogler liked movies, he did not know what a screenplay was. So he went to Best Buy and bought a DVD pack of “Pulp Fiction” that had the screenplay in it on a CD-ROM. “I put it in my computer and saw a screenplay for the first time,” he told LA Times. “I opened up Microsoft Word and tried to duplicate the physical structure of it, started doing my own script, and I really liked it.”

He’s really young to be directing such a huge movie

Coogler is the first black director on a Marvel movie, and the youngest filmmaker Marvel has ever hired, according to Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. “It’s a tremendous gift that he has,” Feige said, according to Rolling Stone.

Coogler’s ‘Black Panther’ is about identity

“Coogler’s ‘Black Panther’ is about many things: family, responsibility, fathers and sons, the power of badass women. Immigration, borders, refugees. What it means to be black. What it means to be African. What it means to be a citizen of the world.

But it’s also a movie about America – the America of mandatory-minimum sentencing and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It’s about how, in one character’s words, ‘leaders have been assassinated, communities flooded with drugs.’ And it’s about – in the haunting last words of another character – ‘my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.’ — Rolling Stone.

Before “Black Panther” even hit theaters, its cultural footprint was already enormous, Jamil Smith wrote in Time:

Rather than dodge complicated themes about race and identity, the film grapples head-on with the issues affecting modern-day black life. It is also incredibly entertaining, filled with timely comedy, sharply choreographed action and gorgeously lit people of all colors. ‘You have superhero films that are gritty dramas or action comedies,’ Coogler told Time. But this movie, he says, tackles another important genre: ‘Superhero films that deal with issues of being of African descent.'”

His filmmaking was influenced by what he saw while working in the juvenile justice

When Coogler was growing up in Oakland, his father worked in the juvenile justice system in San Francisco at a so-called Youth Guidance Center. “It’s where minors are incarcerated,” Coogler told Rolling Stone. “And it’s shitty.”

When Coogler turned 21, he started working there too. “Frisco is a city that’s predominantly white and Asian,” he said. “But you go in there, and all you see is black and Hispanic kids. You’d see them facing an extended (sentence) that doesn’t make sense. Or you get family-visit day and see their family: ‘Oh, man. That’s what these kids go back to? These kids don’t have a shot.'”

Some of the issues Coogler encountered at the Youth Guidance Center included broken families, over-policing, over-incarceration, and few opportunities for young black men. These became themes of his first two movies (“Fruitvale Station” (2013) and the Rocky film, “Creed” (2015). They also show up in “Black Panther.”

He says football prepared him for filmmaking

“As wide receiver, a lot of times you run routes where you can’t even see the ball. You just got to hope that it’s there when you turn your head. You got to trust your teammates to do their job. You’ve got to trust that the lineman is going to block. You’ve got to trust that the quarterback is going to have the right read. And then when … the ball is in the air, you got to catch it. All those things, when it comes to filmmaking? It’s direct preparation.” — Ryan Coogler, director, Black Panther, in The Undefeated.

As a filmmaker, you’re responsible for the audience’s dreams and expectations, Coogler said. “There’s no way I’d be able to do this job if I hadn’t had the experience I have from playing organized sports. I’d be a different person.”

Coogler went up against Marshawn Lynch in a football game during his junior year in Oakland, California. “I played against a lot of dudes that were really, really good,” he said. “Marshawn was probably the best.”

Coogler was recruited by Harvard, Princeton and Penn

As a student, Coogler stood out. His grades were excellent. By his senior year in 2003, he was being heavily recruited by schools including Harvard, Princeton and Penn, according to The Undefeated.

Related Content From Our Editor

10 Things You Need To Know About The Economics Of Black Panther

Content Creator Benoni Tagoe On ‘Black Panther’ Hype, Economic Power And The Real Revolution

‘Black Panther’ Is Good For The Culture, But It’s Not Revolutionary

The Obamas congratulated Coogler and the “Black Panther” cast and crew on President’s Day

Michelle Obama tweeted, “Because of you, young people will finally see superheroes that look like them on the big screen.”

Obama wrote, “I loved this movie and I know it will inspire people of all backgrounds to dig deep and find the courage to be heroes of their own stories.”