Ryan Coogler

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Ryan Coogler
Ryan Coogler by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Coogler at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con
Ryan Kyle Coogler

(1986-05-23) May 23, 1986 (age 33)
Alma mater
OccupationFilmmaker and Screenwriter
Years active2009–present
Zinzi Evans(m. 2016)

Ryan Kyle Coogler (born May 23, 1986) [1] is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. His first feature film, Fruitvale Station (2013), won the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. [2] He has since co-written and directed the seventh film in the Rocky series, Creed (2015), and the Marvel film Black Panther (2018), the latter of which broke numerous box office records and became the highest-grossing film of all time by a black director. [3]


Coogler's films have received significant critical acclaim and commercial success. [4] In 2013, he was included on Time 's list of the 30 people under 30 who are changing the world. [5] His work has been hailed by critics for centering on often overlooked cultures and characters—most notably black people. [6] [7] He frequently collaborates with actor Michael B. Jordan, who has appeared in all of his feature films, as well as composer Ludwig Göransson, who has scored all of his films. [8] In 2018, he was named the runner-up of Time's Person of the Year.

Early life

Coogler was born on May 23, 1986, in Oakland, California. His mother, Joselyn (née Thomas), [1] is a community organizer, and his father, Ira Coogler, is a juvenile hall probation counselor. Both parents graduated from California State University, Hayward. He has two brothers, Noah and Keenan. [9] His uncle, Clarence Thomas, is a third-generation Oakland longshoreman, and the former secretary treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. [10]

Coogler lived in Oakland, until age eight, when he moved to Richmond, California. [9] During his youth, he ran track and played football. [11] He went to a private Catholic high school, Saint Mary's College High School in Berkeley, California, [12] and was good at math and science. [13] [14] He began his college at Saint Mary's College of California in Moraga, California, on a football scholarship as a redshirt wide receiver his freshman semester intending to study chemistry. [9] The football players were encouraged to take a creative writing course. Coogler's teacher on this course praised his work and said it was very visual, and encouraged him to pursue screenwriting. [14] [15] As a student athlete, coming up in the Bay Area, Coogler befriended and often played against NFL running-back Marshawn Lynch. [16]

After Saint Mary's canceled its football program in March 2004, [17] he transferred and earned a scholarship to play at and attend Sacramento State, where in his four years he grabbed 112 receptions for 1,213 yards and 6 touchdowns. [18] At Sacramento, he majored in finance and took as many film classes as he could fit in with the rigors of college football. Following graduation he attended USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he made a series of short films. [19]


Early career

While at USC Film School, Coogler directed four short films, three of which won or were nominated for various awards: Locks (2009), which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and won the Dana and Albert Broccoli Award for Filmmaking Excellence; Fig (2011), which was written by Alex George Pickering, and won the HBO Short Film Competition at the American Black Film Festival and the DGA Student Film Award and was nominated for Outstanding Independent Short Film at the Black Reel Awards; and Gap (2011), which won the Jack Nicholson Award for Achievement in Directing, and had a screenplay written by Carol S. Lashof.

Fruitvale Station

Coogler accepts the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic with the crew of Fruitvale Station at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Ryan Coogler at Sundance 2013, 3.jpg
Coogler accepts the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic with the crew of Fruitvale Station at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Coogler's first feature-length film, Fruitvale Station (originally titled Fruitvale), tells the story of the last 24 hours of the life of Oscar Grant, who was shot to death by a police officer at Oakland's Fruitvale BART station on January 1, 2009. The film was developed and produced by Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker. "I've worked with a number of truly unique voices, true auteurs," Whitaker said of Coogler, "and I can tell when I'm talking to one." [20]

Coogler in 2013 Ryan Coogler Deauville 2013 (cropped).jpg
Coogler in 2013

After the film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition, The Weinstein Company acquired the distribution rights for approximately US$2 million. [21] [22] The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, [23] where it won the award for Best First Film. [24]

Following its release, the film won numerous awards and critical acclaim, including Best First Feature from the Independent Spirit Awards, Breakthrough Director at the Gotham Awards, Best Directorial Debut from the National Board of Review, and Best First Film at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, among others. [25] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film "a gut punch of a movie" and "an unstoppable cinematic force". [26] A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote that Coogler's "hand-held shooting style evokes the spiritually alert naturalism of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne". [27] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called it "a compelling debut" and "a powerful dramatic feature film". [28]

Fruitvale Station grossed over $17 million worldwide after its theatrical run. [29] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a score of 94% based on 195 reviews, with a critical consensus that reads, "Passionate and powerfully acted, Fruitvale Station serves as a celebration of life, a condemnation of death, and a triumph for star Michael B. Jordan." [30] The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2013. [31]


In July 2013, it was reported that MGM had offered Coogler to direct Creed , which he had written with Aaron Covington and is a spin-off-sequel of the Rocky films. [32]

Coogler arrived at the idea after witnessing his father suffer from a neuromuscular disorder; his father was a huge fan of the Rocky films, having made Coogler watch Rocky II before major sporting events that he would participate in, such as important football games. [33] Creed, which was released on November 25, 2015 in the United States, reunited Coogler with Michael B. Jordan, who played Apollo Creed's son Donnie. [34] The film was praised across the board by critics. [35]

For the film, Coogler won the New Generation Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association [36] and a Best Director award from the African-American Film Critics Association. [37] The film's star Michael B. Jordan received an award at the African-American Film Critics Association ceremony for Breakout Performance. Tessa Thompson also won at the ceremony receiving the Best Supporting Actress award. Sylvester Stallone won the Best Supporting Actor award at the Golden Globes for his role in the film. Creed has also won one of the "Best or Top 10 Films of the Year" awards from the National Board of Review, the Boston Online Film Critics Association and the African-American Film Critics Association. [38]

Black Panther

Coogler promoting Black Panther at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con International Ryan Coogler (36203771036).jpg
Coogler promoting Black Panther at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con International

In January 2016, Coogler signed on to co-write and direct the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Black Panther, [39] [40] making him the youngest Marvel Studios filmmaker. [41] The film, starring Chadwick Boseman as the titular character, began production in January 2017, [42] and was released in 2018. Michael B. Jordan appears as the main antagonist Erik Killmonger, having thus starred in all of Coogler's films. [43]

Upon release, the film was an overwhelming commercial success, [44] grossing the fifth largest opening weekend box-office results of all-time, [45] as well as the second highest four-day gross in history. [46] It eventually became the highest grossing film in history directed by an African American. [47] After the release of A Wrinkle in Time in March 2018, it was the first time the top two films at the box office were directed by black filmmakers - Coogler for Black Panther and Ava DuVernay for A Wrinkle in Time. [48]

The film was also a critical success; Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads, "Black Panther elevates superhero cinema to thrilling new heights while telling one of the MCU's most absorbing stories—and introducing some of its most fully realized characters." [49] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called Black Panther, "a jolt of a movie" and said "in its emphasis on black imagination, creation and liberation, the movie becomes an emblem of a past that was denied and a future that feels very present. And in doing so opens up its world, and yours, beautifully." [50] Brian Truitt of USA Today awarded the film four out of four stars and called it Marvel Studios' best origin film since Guardians of the Galaxy . [51] The film was also noted for its representation of black people and subject matter related to Afrofuturism. [52]

Other works and future projects

Coogler served as an executive producer on the ESPN 30 for 30 film The Day the Series Stopped, about Game Three of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, when an earthquake shook the Bay Area to its core.[ citation needed ]

In January 2013, Coogler said he was working on a graphic novel and a young adult novel about undisclosed subject matter. [53]

Coogler will work with Jordan for a fourth time in the upcoming film Wrong Answer, based on the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. [54]

Kevin Feige confirmed in April 2018 that Marvel Studios plans to create a sequel to Black Panther once Coogler returns to direct it. [55] In October 2018, Coogler had completed a deal to write and direct a sequel to Black Panther. [56]

Coogler will serve as writer and producer on the Space Jam sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy , starring LeBron James, [57] and will also serve as a producer on Untitled Fred Hampton project , directed by Shaka King. [58]

Personal life

Coogler has worked since age 21 as a counselor with incarcerated youth at San Francisco's Juvenile Hall, following in the footsteps of his father, who has long shared the same occupation. [59] Coogler is also a founding member [60] and supporter of the Blackout For Human Rights campaign, which is committed to addressing racial and human rights violations happening throughout the United States. [61]

He married Zinzi Evans in 2016. [62] [63]


Feature films

2013 Fruitvale Station YesYesNo
2015 Creed YesYesNo
2018 Black Panther YesYesNo
Creed II NoNoExecutive
TBA [64] Untitled Fred Hampton project NoNoYes
2021 Space Jam: A New Legacy NoYesYes
2022 Black Panther II YesYesNo

Short films

2009LocksYesYesAlso actor and sound editor
On the GrindNoNoDocumentary short;
Camera operator
2010Get SomeNoNoBoom operator, sound editor and sound mixer
The SculptorYesYes
2012It's Just Art, BabyNoNoCamera operator and grip

Awards and nominations

YearAwardCategoryNominated workResult
2013 Austin Film Critics Association Best First Film Fruitvale Station Won
Boston Online Film Critics AssociationBest New FilmmakerWon
Cannes Film Festival Prix de l'Avenir d'Un Certain RegardWon
Grand Prix d'Un Certain RegardNominated
Caméra d'Or Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Most Promising FilmmakerNominated
Detroit Film Critics Society Best BreakthroughNominated
Gotham Awards Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award Won
Las Vegas Film Critics SocietyBreakout Filmmaker of the YearWon
Nantucket Film Festival Vimeo Award for Best Writer/DirectorWon
National Board of Review Best Directorial DebutWon
New York Film Critics Online Best Debut DirectorWon
Phoenix Film Critics SocietyBreakthrough Performance Behind the CameraNominated
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Marlon Riggs AwardWon
Sundance Film Festival Audience Award: U.S. DramaticWon
Grand Jury Prize: U.S. DramaticWon
2014 Black Reel Awards Outstanding Director Nominated
Outstanding Screenplay, Adapted or Original Nominated
Central Ohio Film CriticsBreakthrough Film ArtistNominated
Independent Spirit Awards Best First Feature Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Directing in a Motion PictureNominated
Satellite Awards Honorary Satellite AwardWon
2015 African-American Film Critics Association Best Director Creed Nominated
Indiana Film Journalists AssociationBest DirectorNominated
Las Vegas Film Critics SocietyBest DirectorNominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association New Generation AwardWon
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Directing in a Motion PictureWon
Outstanding Writing in a Motion PictureWon
New York Film Critics Online Best DirectorNominated
2016 Empire Awards Best Director Nominated
2018 44th Saturn Awards Best Director Black Panther Won
Best Writing (with Joe Robert Cole)Nominated
African-American Film Critics Association Best Director Won
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Screenplay, Adapted (with Joe Robert Cole)Nominated
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Best Adapted Screenplay (with Joe Robert Cole)Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Director Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay (with Joe Robert Cole)Nominated
2019 Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Adapted Screenplay (with Joe Robert Cole)Nominated
Satellite Awards Auteur Award Won
Georgia Film Critics Association Best Adapted Screenplay (with Joe Robert Cole)Nominated
USC Scripter Award Best Adapted Screenplay (with Joe Robert Cole)Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best Adapted Screenplay (with Joe Robert Cole)Nominated
Black Reel Awards Outstanding Director Won
Outstanding Screenplay (with Joe Robert Cole)Nominated

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