From football to film, Ryan Coogler has always shown promise.
Born Ryan Kyle Coogler in Oakland, California, he attended Saint Mary's College on a football scholarship. When the school cancelled its football scholarships, he transferred to Sacramento State College and played there.
It was at Saint Mary's where Ryan discovered a potential future in film. He was in a mandatory creative writing class when his professor assigned a project that entailed writing about a personal experience. Ryan decided to express the time his father nearly bled to death in his arms, and after reading his work, his professor pulled him aside. She asked him what he wanted to do with his life, and he told her he simply wanted to play ball, become a doctor and be a positive influence in his community. Without hesitation, she told him to consider becoming a screenwriter as he could reach more people with his powerful words.
After he transferred to Sacramento State, he specialized in finance but continued exploring film with his elective courses. Realizing the craft was his true calling, he opted to pursue graduate studies at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. During his first semester at USC, he was strapped for money and lived out of his car.
Ryan's first project was the 2009 short Locks, which he followed up in 2011 with Fig. The 15-minute film is about a prostitute desperate to leave her work behind but still provide for her daughter.
He also made another short in 2011 called The Sculptor.
In 2013, Ryan broke out with his first feature. With the help of Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker, who agreed to develop and produce the film, Ryan wrote and directed Fruitvale Station. The script was accepted into the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, where Ryan received guidance from industry experts, and he eventually cast Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer in the drama. Ryan also cast his brother Keenan in the film.
Fruitvale Station, which is based on the tragic 2009 killing of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, picked up awards at Sundance, the National Board of Review, the Independent Spirit Awards, and Cannes.
Two years later, Ryan made his second film, Creed. The boxing drama reunited Ryan with Michael B. Jordan and also earned Sylvester Stallone a Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Ryan wrote and directed the movie, which brought Sylvester's long-cherished character Rocky Balboa back to the screen.
Ryan most recently took the reins on the Marvel superhero film Black Panther, starring Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan and Danai Gurira. Ryan penned the script for the film, which hit theaters in 2018.
He is currently working on the sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
Ryan, who has previously worked as a security guard and with imprisoned youth/at-risk kids at San Francisco's Juvenile Hall, is married to Zinzi Evans.
Black Panther (2018)
Fruitvale Station (2013)