It turns out that Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman not only didn't get to read the Black Panther 2 script before his tragic passing but actually turned down the opportunity.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever director Ryan Coogler is on the promotional trail for his upcoming MCU blockbuster, and he's been offering up all sorts of tidbits on the film. This includes what the outing looked like before the untimely death of franchise star Chadwick Boseman.
The Black Panther sequel is weeks away and fans have learned all sorts about the project and what it looked like in various states of development. After Boseman's death in 2020 (something that will be directly addressed in the sequel), the entire project had to go back to the drawing board.
While Wakanda Forever may be "spiritually very similar" to what was initially pitched, much of the plot had to be reworked, moving from T'Challa's next adventure to something much bigger.
And it turns out that Boseman himself could have had the opportunity to take in this original script before his passing, but turned down the opportunity late in his battle with colon cancer.
Chadwick Never Read the Black Panther 2 Script
In a conversation on The Official Black Panther Podcast, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever director Ryan Coogler revealed a few details about his final memories of Chadwick Boseman, and the actor turning down the chance to read the Black Panther 2 script before his passing.
Coogler told podcast host Ta-Nehisi Coates that his final conversation with the late MCU actor involved asking "[Boseman] if he wanted to read [the script] before [he] got notes," an offer the actor declined:
Coates: “Where were you in the script when found out he passed?”
Coogler: “I just finished it, man. My last conversation was calling him, asking him if he wanted to read it before I got notes from the studio. That was the last time we spoke. And yeah, so I, you know, he passed maybe a couple weeks after I finished.”
Coogler said that talking to Boseman on that last call he "could tell he was tired." He noted that after the actor joked about kicking his wife (Simone) out of the room, because "he didn’t want her to hear nothing," and her "[not wanting to] leave him," he could "tell something was up:"
“It’s all good. What did you say… He was tired, bro. I could tell he was tired. I’d been trying to get a hold of him for a few days and Denzel [Washington] had been trying to get a hold of him too. So I texted him and told him, ‘Hey man, Denzel said he’s been looking for you to.’ Because he just did Ma Rainey for Denzel. So he called me. And I could tell he was laying down. We were talking. And Simone [Boseman] was with him. And (laughs) he kicks Simone out, because he told her he didn’t want her to hear nothing that could get him in trouble with the NDA. And she didn’t wanna leave him. So I could tell something was up. But they were joking and laughing."
When the director asked Boseman if he was interested in reading the Black Panther 2 script, the T'Challa actor replied that "he didn’t wanna get in the way of whatever notes the studio might have" and that "it’s better if [he] can read it later." Coogler later found out that this was simply a case of Boseman being "too tired to read anything:"
"He talked about how they were planning their wedding in South Carolina. And how many people he was going to invite… And he asked about my kid, ’cause he had missed our baby shower. And then he was like, yeah, he said he didn’t wanna read it ’cause he didn’t wanna get in the way of whatever notes the studio might have. So he was like, ‘It’s better if I can read it later.’ But I found later that he was too tired to read anything.”
The filmmaker noted that he was excited to show Boseman this sequel script. He said that almost immediately following Black Panther, they started working on the sequel. He said that he did a "deep dive" looking at various stories and finding a "few characters he would interact with," before settling that Namor the Sub-Mariner had to be in the sequel:
“Yeah, I did, man. I knew I wanted to make another one and when I was doing my deep dive, you know, all these stories, there were a few characters he would interact with, I thought, ‘This would be awesome.’ And it knew it would be Klaue and Killmonger for the first one, but Namor was all over these books and I thought it was really interesting. So… we would say, ‘Man, could we ever do Namor?’ And they had contractual things going on with him as a character at the time… But it was something that if we ran it back, it would be about him and Namor and we would introduce Marvel’s Atlantis into the fold."
Coogler remarked that "[he] was always excited to come back." This second film was going to be a "T’Challa vehicle," where they did "the deepest dive into this guy," commenting that "[he] felt like [he] had a better [handle] on T’Challa as a character after making the first film:"
"This was before Aquaman came out and this was before a lot of things, but we would talk about it from time to time. So I was always excited to come back knowing what it was. And that excited me quite a bit and the second script, it was like a T’Challa vehicle. It was like, ‘Okay, we set the world up. Now, we’re gonna do the deepest dive into this guy that you could imagine.’ And that was what excited me even more, ’cause I knew Chad better as a performer and… I knew him better as a guy. So I felt like I had a better [handle] on T’Challa as a character after making the first film. But I got into writing that thing immediately.”
Coogler said it was "a couple weeks" after finishing this script and asking if Boseman wanted to see it that he found out the actor had passed. He looked back on the moment he found out, saying that "[he] got the call from Charles King and Craig Kestel," his manager and agent respectively, and "didn’t wanna believe it" when he was told the news:
“I do. Yeah, I do. Yeah, I was at the house and I got the call from Charles King and Craig Kestel. Charles King is my manager and Craig Kestel is my agent at WME. So they call, ’cause they heard, ’cause I guess all the big agencies and managers kinda found out before it broke in the press. And they called and told me that and y’know, I didn’t wanna believe it."
From there he "called Denzel [Washington] and spoke with him," going "through that denial" and thinking "maybe it’s a rumor." But Washington called Coogler back, saying "It’s not a rumor:"
"So I called Denzel and spoke with him, and I was like, ‘Maybe it’s a rumor.’ You know, so I was texting Chad… You know, you go through that denial. And with technology, I think it makes it kinda easier to deny things, you know what I’m saying? You think maybe it’s a hoax, or it’s X, Y, Z. Let me text him. Let me call him, you know what I’m saying? So I texted him and then I told Denzel, ‘Man, check to see if it’s a rumor.’ He was like, ‘I should do that.’ So he checked, he called me back, and he was like, ‘It’s not a rumor.’ And then my agents called back and said that the release had just been posted. So that was how I found out.”
Remembering a Fallen Avenger
This is a story that just gets more heart-wrenching with every passing headline. Fans still remember that August afternoon when the world found out Chadwick Boseman had passed away. For many, it still doesn't feel real.
Now, more than two years later, the actor's legacy will be honored in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. But it is sad to know that he never got the chance to see what was possible with the sequel.
From what Coogler has said, this was going to be a T'Challa-centric story. While Black Panther set up the world of Wakanda, this was going to get into the head of Boseman's Avenger, as he "[comes] back after being gone for five years" in the wake of The Blip. This was going to be Boseman's film, but he never got the chance to revel in it.
Boseman turning down the offer to read this first draft is not something that anyone should take offense to. If this was mere weeks out from the actor's tragic death, then surely he was in no shape to dive into a screenplay as deep as this.
The T'Challa actor was full of pride, so much so that he kept his colon cancer a secret throughout almost all of his MCU tenure. He was not going to reveal to Coogler that anything was amiss. He may not have known the end was nigh, but he could have had some indication that he might not be around for this film to ever come to fruition.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever comes to theaters on Friday, November 11.