In an interview with The New York Times published this week, the director shared what motivated him to put a significant number of women in major leadership roles on set, including director of photography Rachel Morrison, production designer Hannah Beachler and costume designer Ruth E. Carter.
“In each one of the circumstances where I’ve worked with these incredible filmmakers that happen to be women, they were the best people for the job,” he said, adding that he doesn’t “get it” when other directors don’t hire many women for jobs behind the camera.
Morrison told the Times that some women on set “liked to joke that we were [Coogler’s] Dora Milaje,” referring to the female warriors depicted in “Black Panther.”
Carter, who was also the costume designer on Spike Lee’s 1988 film “School Daze,” praised Coogler and said he fostered an environment where women could thrive.
“We cut past any of the normal bureaucracy of male dominance, where they may want to overtake the conversation or need to be leader of the idea,” she told the Times. “You don’t have to be overbearing to get your point to him — he’s open in that way. With that calmness and humility, the gate opens: ‘Hello, I have this to offer.’”
Director Ava DuVernay, whose independent film collective Array amplifies films by women and people of color, tweeted last January about what it was like to work on the same lot as Coogler.
“We edited our films across the hall from each other for 8 months,” she wrote before watching the premiere “Black Panther.” “We talked in our edit bays, on walks around the lot. About our films, our dreams. Tonight, his comes true. On my way to the #BlackPanther premiere with a full heart for my fam, director extraordinaire #RyanCoogler!”
“Black Panther,” which is the highest-grossing superhero film of all time in North America, has been celebrated for its focus on black empowerment and its celebration of black culture and the African diaspora, as well as for having a mostly black cast.
The film’s crew talked to the Times as the lack of female representation in the film industry continues to garner more attention, even outside Hollywood.
Regina King, for example, said during her Golden Globes acceptance speech on Sunday that she had vowed to help boost women’s representation in the film industry by hiring women for at least 50 percent of the jobs on her future projects.