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Long Before “Black Panther,” Chadwick Boseman Made an Independent Film in Portland. Director Mischa Webley Knew Then He Was a Star.

In 2010, Webley, a native of Northeast Portland, cast Boseman in his debut feature, “The Kill Hole,” about an Iraq war veteran who goes AWOL in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

In their last text conversation, Chadwick Boseman gave Portland filmmaker Mischa Webley some straightforward advice: "Make more movies."

That was around the time of the release of Get On Up, the 2014 film in which the actor—who died Aug. 28 at age 43 after a private four-year battle with colon cancer—portrayed music legend James Brown. Four years earlier, Webley, a native of Northeast Portland, cast Boseman in his debut feature, The Kill Hole, about an Iraq war veteran who goes AWOL in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. It was shot in and around Portland 10 years ago this month.

At the time, Boseman's credits were mostly made up of cameos on television dramas like Fringe and Justified. But everyone on the set knew he was bound for bigger things.

"It was more than a sense," Webley says. "It just seemed inevitable."

Boseman's ascent would start with his next movie, the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, and culminate, in 2018, with Black Panther, which went on to gross $1.3 billion worldwide and establish Boseman as not just a box-office megastar but an inspirational figure for Black youth, who finally had a superhero to call their own.

Webley and Boseman stayed in touch as the actor's rise began, losing connection as the latter entered the Hollywood stratosphere. But since news of Boseman's sudden passing, Webley has been thinking a lot about their final communication.

In the years since The Kill Hole, Webley mostly put his directorial aspirations on hold, working as communications director for Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods. He began 2020 determined to get another feature off the ground. Boseman's death has only affirmed that goal.

"I think about how to honor and respect his memory," Webley says. "And what it comes down to is, the only thing left to do is make more movies."

Webley spoke to WW about the star qualities he saw in Boseman before many others did, and how his success blew open the door for Black filmmakers everywhere.

See more Distant Voices interviews here. The Kill Hole is available for rent and purchase through Amazon Prime.