Chadwick Boseman's death became one of the most shocking moments in MCU history, eventually leading to Black Panther 2 paying tribute to him in various ways. This was seen immediately after the movie began as the Wakandans drew murals depicting the late T'Challa on the streets while his family led the funeral procession and laid him to rest with their ancestors, with his death serving as a central part of the plot.
Tragically, Boseman wasn't the only beloved celebrity that passed away in 2020, as the world saw Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, killed in a helicopter crash in California in January 2020.
And while Bryant's death became one of the most painful moments in recent memory for so many people worldwide, the reaction to his passing actually became an inspiration for the Black Panther 2 team during production.
Kobe Inspires MCU's Chadwick Boseman Tribute
Speaking with Vanity Fair, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever production designer Hannah Beachler shared how tributes to late NBA star Kobe Bryant inspired similar tributes to Chadwick Boseman and T'Challa in the MCU sequel.
Beachler looked back to the murals and tributes put up worldwide for Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, noting how it was a way that "we sort of memorialize people that are loved." She then took that idea into the MCU, feeling that the people of Wakanda would want to do something similar for their lost king after losing him so suddenly:
“In the beginning, it was a lot of conversation about, 'Do we have that?' When Chadwick passed, murals went up all over the world of him and his Panther suit. And same with our heroes, with Kobe Bryant and his daughter, I mean, it’s just how we sort of memorialize people that are loved. The conversation was, I don’t think that people in Wakanda would do anything different, right? They would want to memorialize their chief and Panther.”
Below is one example of a mural depicting Kobe and Gianna Bryant, giving them both angels' wings in the clouds as they embrace. Similar murals depicting Boseman were drawn all over the world after his passing, including one of him with a young child wearing a Black Panther mask that went up at Disneyland.
Working with director Ryan Coogler, Beachler also got to use some inspiration from New Orleans, her home city, in the processional for T'Challa. She noted how the music and dancing were a way to "celebrate the life" of Boseman's hero while mourning him at the same time, calling the scene "a moment to get everything out:"
“We have our brass bands, and we celebrate life. We celebrate the loss, but we also celebrate the life of having known them. That’s how I felt when we were doing the procession and the music. It was beautiful, and everybody was dressed beautifully, and it was a moment to get everything out.”
The production designer explained how difficult it was to get the processional exactly right, noting that it was "really hard for Ryan that we were doing mock-ups and whatnot." And while it was "a little hard to talk about" with the moment being so heavy, she reflected on how the team took it "right to the wire on getting it done" during production:
This mural was created by Brandon Sadler, who also worked on the original movie, choosing to leave him out of the Black Panther suit to make it "more of a memorial to the person, to the king, in that way, less the Panther." Beachler explained that the team "wanted to keep it simple," with only her, Coogler, and the crew that made the painting being the only ones who knew what was planned for the art piece:
She remembered how much of a "heavy moment" it was when Coogler, the cast, and the crew saw the painting for the first time, praising Sadler for the "absolutely stunningly beautiful job" he did commemorating Boseman:
"When they came on set, that was the first time the cast was seeing it. That was a heavy moment. He did an absolutely stunningly beautiful job. No one had actually seen it, not even Ryan at that point. He knew what we were going to do, but he hadn’t seen it. And so that was quite a moment for people to have to stop, sort of take that in."
It was no secret how difficult the production was for Coogler and the crew, but Beachler reveled in how the mural gave the crew "a sense of also pride that he was looking over" everybody as the movie was made.
“I think that there was a sense of also pride that he was looking over us doing our work, doing the work that he loved, knowing that his spirit was with us at that moment. It was hard, and it was heartfelt, and it was not easy for everyone on those days. But ultimately, what we were doing in the procession was also celebrating life.”
On the day of Kobe and Gianna Bryant's deaths, Boseman even expressed his own love for the NBA Hall of Famer on Twitter, saying he was "heartbroken" and praising Bryant for his work ethic and focus while sharing a picture of them together:
"I’m heartbroken. Shocked. Husband, Father, Strategist, Philosopher-Poet, Warrior-Athlete, Filmmaker...your focus is magnetic, Kobe. My love goes out to you and your family."
Mamba Forever & Wakanda Forever
Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman's passings in 2020 hit in a particularly deep way for sports and movie fans, especially with them being only 41 and 43 years old, respectively, at the time they died. Bryant was just moving into the next phase of his life as a family man and entrepreneur, even winning an Academy Award for his work on the 2017 short film Dear Basketball, putting him on a similar plane of excellence that Boseman had met with his work on 2018's Black Panther.
Beachler unquestionably saw the impact that Bryant's death had on fans, which she felt even more deeply when Boseman died so suddenly during pre-production for Black Panther 2. That impact led her to do her absolute best to pay tribute to the fallen MCU star as respectfully as possible, with this mural being the only imagery of Boseman other than flashbacks to his past MCU movies at the very end of the sequel.
Bryant and Boseman shared a similarly massive place in the entertainment world due to their accomplishments, tying them together in history in a way that might be unexpected considering how different their professions were. But with tributes continuing to pour in from celebrities and fans alike years after their deaths, it seems only right to see their impact recreated in Black Panther 2 as T'Challa was commemorated and memorialized in the MCU.