The day Chadwick Boseman found out Marvel Studios wanted him to play Black Panther, he may as well have woken up in another world. He was in Europe promoting another movie, hadn’t heard that Marvel was casting the role, and didn’t even have international calling on his cell phone.
“We were in Zurich,” Boseman said at the Black Panther press conference. “I was coming off the red carpet for Get On Up and my agent was like, ‘You’ve gotta get on the phone.’ And the crazy thing is I didn’t even have international calling on my phone until that morning. In an interview I heard someone say ‘Get international on your phone and call your mom,’ [then] important stuff, literally, happened that night.”
The important stuff was a phone call from Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, Marvel producers Louis D’Esposito, Nate Moore, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo.
“We were sitting around a table. We were coming up with the story for [Captain America] Civil War [when] Nate Moore, our executive producer, suggested bringing in Black Panther because we were looking for a third party that wouldn’t necessarily side with Cap or Iron Man. And almost instantly we all said ‘Chadwick,’ Feige said. “And in my memory, though maybe it was the next day, we got him on speaker phone right then.”
“You hear people say this all the time when you’re in a setting like this but he was the only choice,” Feige said. So, unlike some of the biggest stars currently playing superheroes, Boseman didn’t have to do anything to get the role. No auditions, no nothing. He just had to be himself.
Plus, though they didn’t know it at the time, that decision was also a huge factor in landing director Ryan Coogler, who was at first unsure if Black Panther should be his next film.
“When I came and sat down to watch Civil War before it came out, I was trying to make my mind up if the film was right for me,” Coogler told io9. “Then I saw [the scenes with T’Challa and T’Chaka] and was blown away.”
“I’m really incredibly grateful for the choices and decisions that [everyone] made in Civil War,” he continued. “I thought they just did a phenomenal job of introducing the main character from this film, casting Chadwick, casting Dr. John Kani and Florence Kasumba. It just set us up in such an amazing way.”
And it’s a pretty amazing story too.
Black Panther opens February 16.