Chadwick Boseman Explains the Importance of Black Panther's International Success

Hit star of the year's second highest-grossing film highlights why its triumph overseas was so significant

By Samantha Schnurr May 31, 2018 9:56 PMTags
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When Black Panther released to theaters in February, it turned the box office on its head. 

As the second highest-grossing film of 2018, the third highest-grossing film ever in the United States and the ninth highest-grossing film of all time, the Marvel movie was an undeniable masterpiece.

But, it's overseas success in particular was a significant indication to lead star Chadwick Boseman that the tides could be turning high up in Hollywood. "As we premiered the movie in Korea, in London, after the L. A. premiere, we started to see how the world was going to receive it," the actor explained to Esquire. "We knew that a lot of black people were excited about the movie. But I think when we started to see the response overseas, that's when I started to go, 'Oh, wow, this is a big deal.'"

It raked in $169,363,580 outside of the United States and Canada in its opening weekend and $646,221,327 overseas in its entire release, contributing to a grand $1,345,059,695 total gross worldwide—making it the fourth highest-grossing Marvel film ever. Simultaneously, it shone a bright light on movie studios' biased and inaccurate thinking. 

"Studios will very often tell you that movies with a black lead are not going to work overseas," Boseman continued to the magazine. "So I think that was the thing for me—this means something everywhere in the world. I know at that point it could actually change how studios respond to our movies. You can no longer say definitively, 'Black movies don't work [outside of the U. S].'"

Black Panther's Hollywood Premiere

Still, as Boseman said, "I think there's more work to be done....There have been clear examples of movie stars that are not given the same respect of even marketing a movie internationally. If you see an international poster, very often, even though the movie will have a black star leading the movie, they won't have that movie star featured prominently on the poster. That is because of that belief of 'We can't sell this movie [internationally] if we put that person in front.' I've had arguments with people about that."

The actor noted that had been "attempted" with him. "I don't need to say. This is not a moment where I went, 'Ha ha, I told you so.," he told Esquire with a laugh. "I don't need to say that, because they know what they did." 

However, the experience is a behind-the-scenes confirmation that there is still much to overcome. 

"People don't know the kinds of battles you have to go through when you're in that position [as a black movie star]. So if I'm saying I've gone through those battles, I can only imagine the battles that people before me have gone through," he said. 

"Will Black Panther change this?...I can't say that. It's up to us to claim that thing, and it's up to the other side to recognize the truth in what just happened. As long as the work is of quality, there should be no reason something shouldn't sell."

The Summer issue of Esquire hits newsstands on June 5.

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