Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger is one of the MCU’s most complex villains. His heartbreaking dialogue toward the end of the film is one of his most powerful moments and perhaps something you wouldn’t normally expect to hear in a superhero film.
Black Panther co-writers Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole put it in there assuming Marvel executives would cut it. However, they did the opposite.
In fact, they said not just to keep it in, but make the whole movie about that choice. Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recalls reading those lines in the first draft of Black Panther. The exchange, if you recall, is as follows:
T’Challa: “I can try to heal you.”
Killmonger: “Why, so you can lock me up? Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped ships, ‘cause they knew death was better than bondage.”
“It was one of the best lines we ever read,” Feige told THR. “We said, ‘There are going to be a lot of revisions, but don’t touch that line.’ And Ryan said, ‘That’s the line I thought you’d tell me to cut.’ And we said, ‘On the contrary, keep it and build more of the movie around it.’”
Coogler did just that, Black Panther made $983 million domestic, becoming not just Marvel’s highest grossing domestic release ever, but the third highest grossing domestic release of all time. It also, most importantly, secured Marvel its first Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. We’ll find out if it can win on February 25.
As for Coogler and Feige, the pair will soon be back at work, as a Black Panther sequel is in the works.