Ryan Coogler attends IndieWire Honors 2018 on November 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: David Livingston (Getty Images)

Black Panther so political.

Ryan Coogler and Spike Lee recently joined other leading directors for the Hollywood Reporter’s popular roundtable series to discuss their award-nominated films, their personal career journeys and directorial inspirations.

Yes, Black Panther is within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but make no mistake about itit’s not solely for entertainment. And the film’s director confirmed it himself.

“Yeah. It’s about a politician, you know? So there was no way for it to not be,” noted the Oakland native. “It’s a character who is the political leader of a fictional country, but we put it on a real continent, we wanted to set it in the real world. So it’s definitely a political film.”

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Lee, representing his critically-acclaimed film, BlacKkKlansman, delved into how art can serve as a political device in and of itself by reflecting the real world.

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“Well, we live in very dangerous times,” Lee mused. “Artists reflect what’s happening in the world or what they want to happen, and the great thing about art is everybody can follow their own vision. But for me, this guy in the White House, Agent Orange—these are not America’s brightest moments. If you’re an artist and you make the decision that you’re not going to include politics, that’s a political decision in itself.”

Each director at the table answered the ultimate question: What director, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with? Coogler went with Oscar Micheaux, while Lee awed the other directors by name-dropping auteurs he’d already met and exchanged discourse with such as Billy Wilder, Federico Fellini and Elia Kazan.

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Lee has already established himself as a director many young directors today would love to have dinner with. Young director Coogler, who already has a multimillion budget film under his belt before the age of 35, would too (if he hasn’t already, which is very likely), citing Do the Right Thing as a film on his repeated viewings list.

As far as other heroes, Coogler immediately listed his mom. “Or Patrice Lumumba,” he added. “The Democratic Republic of the Congo, when they got their independence [in 1960], he was the first elected leader. And he was assassinated by the CIA.”

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The Black Panther franchise director also touched on the pressures of helming a film of such large scale.

“What I found made it a lot harder on Black Panther was you’re dealing with so many more people,” he said. “You’ve got to get comfortable directing in a room full of 75, 100 people sometimes. A lot of times, I find directing can make you feel like you’re naked, you know what I mean? So directing on a 10-person crew is like being naked in front of 10 people, but with 200 people, it’s a different ballgame.”