Ryan Coogler Reveals He Learned Swimming for the ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’

Ryan Coogler, the director of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” did not know how to swim before the production of the movie.

“A lot of us were raised to have fear of water,” the 36-year-old filmmaker admitted to Variety, evoking his own trepidation and evoking the various reasons Black people have avoided — or ways they’ve been excluded — from pools and the ocean over the course of history. “A lot of us were raised to have fear of water,” the filmmaker told Variety. I had to teach myself how to swim in order to direct this movie. It was a must.

Coogler is at the cover shoot in late October with two of his major actors, Angela Bassett and Letitia Wright. They are there only hours before the world premiere of the Marvel sequel. About half of the events that take place in “Wakanda Forever” take place below the surface of the water. This is because the film introduces Namor, the emperor of Talokan, a mysterious underwater country that poses an unexpected new danger to the fictitious African state of Wakanda in “Black Panther.”

Coogler noted with a grin, “It’s a lot of Black and Mesoamerican individuals in water in this movie,” driving home the cultural significance of the locale by focusing on the location.

The director continued by praising Bassett and Wright, saying, “I’m excited for people to see what these two did in the water.” He then nodded to the full troupe of performers, many of whom learned to swim for the movie and trained with world-class free diving instructors and an aquatic stunt team assembled for the shoot. “I’m excited for people to see what these two did in the water,” the director said. The amount of stunt work that they all accomplished astonished me, as did the fact that everybody showed up ready to go and ready to learn how to free dive.

Because of the fact that Coogler is the kind of filmmaker who loves to get as near to his actors as possible rather than being stuck by the monitors, he found himself tied to a hookah at the bottom of a water tank, learning how to free dive alongside his cast members.

“If the camera is in the water, actors are in the water, then I’ve got to be in there too,” he added when he sat down with Variety once more a few days later to further discuss the production of the film. “If the camera is in the water, actors are in the water, then I’ve had to be in there too.”

At the beginning of the training, the extent of Coogler’s swimming abilities was limited to the capacity to “keep alive,” but that was about it. Therefore, it is not surprising that there was some sort of a steep learning curve involved. People who have tried free diving before surely won’t be surprised to find that, for example, Coogler had a difficult time learning how and when to clear his ears at the beginning of his freediving career. (He is aware that you must perform this action when going down, not while going up.)

The experience of learning to navigate those depths and overcoming that fear proved to be gratifying for Coogler in the end. He reflected on the experience and said, “I remember it was a wild feeling like I can’t believe I’m this deep in water.” “After that, I began to work on the breath hold and eventually became comfortable with it.

Additionally, the fact that Coogler wasn’t by himself was a huge benefit.

Ryan Coogler
Source- Deadline

Bassett who plays the one-of-a-kind Queen Ramonda the queen mother of Wakanda, revealed that after director Ryan Coogler sold her the intricate emotional arc that this drama would demand, he threw on an all-important question: “Can you swim?” Are you able to submerge your head in the water?

That is not a trivial matter at all. Bassett cracked a witty remark, saying, “You know, Black girls have this history with water and their hair.” Because of this, some of us aren’t very good swimmers, which is going to throw a wrench into that press and curl. It encompasses the entire thing.”

The response that Bassett gave was that she could swim “a little bit” and that, as a result of the training, she was able to increase the amount of time that she could hold her breath underwater from “approximately 20 seconds, with the struggle” to the entire two minutes. Her co-star Lupita Nyong’o, who plays Nakia, one of the most accomplished War Dog spies in Wakanda, ran out of time at almost the same point.

Before we started working on this project, I knew how to swim, but I wasn’t a confident swimmer,” said Nyong’o. “I was terrified of the water.” “I did not have to swim in front of anyone, that much is for sure. That is a skill that will be with me for the rest of my life.

Mabel Cadena (Namora, Namor’s top lieutenant), who held her breath underwater for a whooping six and a half minutes, is rumored to hold the record despite the fact that the event in question was not officially sanctioned as a competition.

When asked how she was able to do something of this magnitude, Cadena explained it by saying, “The first rule is, ‘Don’t feel panic'”.

Cadena much like many of the other actors who trained on their own prior to working with the divers on set, enlisted the assistance of a Mexican Olympic swimming coach to assist her in accomplishing the goal of becoming so at ease underwater that it appeared as though she lived there, just like her character does.

I remember the first three days I went in the tank, you get in there and you start feeling the panic,” said Alex Livinalli, who portrayed Attuma, the most ferocious warrior in the Talokan tribe. “Getting your mind into that level of relaxation and learning to maximize your oxygen consumption is a process,” she said. And most certainly made the most of it.”

Tenoch Huerta Mejia has not been coy about the fact that when Ryan Coogler and Marvel approached him about playing Namor and inquired if he knew how to swim, he deftly sidestepped the issue through the use of creative subterfuge.

He informed them, I’ve never drowned before and once he landed the role, he began to take classes in order to prepare for it. Today, he boasts to Variety that he is able to swim without the assistance of floaties: “I know how to swim.” And after putting in the effort to train himself to hold his breath underwater, he describes the experience as “like meditation.”

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It is striking that “Wakanda Forever” is set so prominently in water, a location that is often used as a metaphor for grief due to the way that the feelings ebb and flow like waves, sometimes crashing so intensely that they completely overwhelm you. Although Namor, one of Marvel Comics’ oldest superheroes and Talokan were always intended to be part of the “Black Panther” sequel, it is striking that “Wakanda Forever” is set so prominently in the water

Ryan Coogler, Bassett and Wright detail in the cover story of Variety how the entire cast and crew of the Black Panther film franchise first waded into the depths of their grief over the death of franchise star Chadwick Boseman, before quite literally diving into the deep end, all on their way to paying a fittingly grand tribute to their comrade, both on screen and behind the scenes.

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