Thursday, February 22, 2018


Michael B. Jordan Takes On His First Blockbuster Role—as a Villain Now comes Black Panther, the eagerly awaited dive into the Marvel comic universe from Jordan’s friend and collaborator, Creed and Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler. The film—which chronicles the story of T’Challa, aka Black Panther, king of Wakanda, a fictional African nation—has been the source of frenzied fan excitement for a few years now, partly because of the 31-year-old Coogler’s growing reputation as a visionary, but also because it is a big-budgeted epic about a black superhero, starring a dream cast of black actors, among them Jordan, Oscar winners Lupita Nyong’o and Forest Whitaker, and Chadwick Boseman (42, Get On Up) in the title role. It’s absurd that it took until 2018 to get here, but in Hollywood, Black Panther is a Very Big Deal. “It’s something that hasn’t been done before,” says Jordan. “I think it’s a perfect time for this movie.” There’s also this: For the first time in his career, Jordan is going truly bad, playing a villain, Black Panther’s burly nemesis, Erik Killmonger—“something I’ve never done before,” Jordan says. To prep, he studied great villain performances, like Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight and Michael Fassbender in…a lot of Michael Fassbender things. “I felt competitive,” Jordan says. “I wanted to build a performance that people will remember. Something different. Grow my hair out? Cool. I’ll grow my hair for a year. Put on 20 pounds? I’ll put on 20 pounds.” To clarify: He’s talking about 20 pounds of muscle. “Everything,” Jordan says. “Chest, shoulders, back. My legs a little bit, my quads. I was just, like, massive.” This dedication is a celebrated part of Jordan’s origin story. For Creed, he shredded himself into a fighting machine with an enviable eight-pack set of abdominals. For Black Panther, Jordan was right back at it with the weights and monastic eating restrictions. “It’s a job, man,” he says, clearly enjoying our midday carb feast, which is not his norm. “You really have to diet. It’s hard to be social. You have to drink a gallon and a half of water. When you’re drinking a gallon and a half of water a day, you know how many times you have to use the bathroom? It’s annoying.” Body work didn’t make Jordan a movie star, however. His undeniable magnetism did. From the early stages of Jordan’s career, he’s taken roles, often small ones, and consistently turned out engaging, fully formed humans. The young drug runner Wallace in The Wire; quarterback Vince Howard in Friday Night Lights; recovering alcoholic Alex in Parenthood; underdog boxer Creed—all of them could have been played as standard character types. But Jordan made them multidimensional, empathetic, riveting. In Fruitvale Station, in which he played Oscar Grant—a Bay Area native shot and killed in Oakland, California, by a transit police officer who was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter—Jordan portrayed a complex person of intelligence and vulnerability (and humor), which countered the usual media caricatures. It still feels mildly insane that neither Fruitvale nor Jordan was nominated for an Academy Award in 2014. Audiences, it seems, really like watching Michael B. Jordan on the screen, and it’s made him a sought-after talent. A few hours before we’d met up, I’d read an excited blog post listing the top five reasons to see Black Panther, and the No. 1 reason was: “Michael B. Jordan is always awesome.” “I think Mike has a way of making you care,” says Coogler, who calls Jordan “incredibly relatable” on screen and off. “I think some of it is natural—he’s got a natural charisma. But he’s put time into it. There’s been a lot of hard work on craft, too.” “There’s a skill to humanizing what’s on a page and making it sing,” says Tessa Thompson, who co-starred alongside Jordan in Creed as Bianca, Donnie’s musician girlfriend. “With Michael, I think there’s a sweetness that’s rare and lights up a screen. The reason that audiences love him is because they can feel close to him.” In person, Jordan is an engaging mix of confidence and humility—the exact opposite of wishy-washy. Though he’s still young (he turns 31 in February), he’s been working for more than half of his life and sees an opportunity to make this his moment. “I’m ambitious,” he says. “I see what actors I look up to have, the types of platforms they have and their ability to create and tell stories they want—I want that. Why not?” He credits his father, Michael A. Jordan, who served in the Marines, for his drive: “The one thing my dad always told me is ‘You’ve got to be serious about something.’ ” “That’s why Black Panther is so important,” he continues. “There are so many things that had to happen for Marvel to get on board, for Disney to get behind the message that we’re getting behind. Ryan [Coogler] had to be the perfect guy; he had to earn his stripes, earn his budget.” Judging from the advance excitement, Black Panther looks as though it might turn out to be one of those oh, duh moments for Hollywood, just as director Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman was when it earned $800 million last summer: Wait, you mean if we make a smart, mass-appeal movie that recognizes a huge chunk of the moviegoing public, it might be a giant hit? “That’s how I feel,” Jordan says. “I feel like it’s a timing thing.” Jordan has a special bond with Coogler; with Black Panther, the actor and director have now made three movies together—and a fourth, Wrong Answer, about the Atlanta schools testing scandal, is in the works, with a script being written by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s tempting to see a Scorsese/De Niro–style partnership brewing. Jordan says that he and Coogler have an almost unspoken work dynamic now. He knows what Coogler wants before the director even asks. “I trust him with my life,” Jordan says. “I literally want to do all of his movies.” “When we first met, there was this ease of communication,” says Coogler, who was born in Oakland. “We’re roughly the same age, from similar-type places. We’ve become like family from working on projects this intense.” can't get enough of Michael B. Jordan read the rest of the article in February WSJ. Article written by By Jason Gay

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