Fresh off awards wins and standing ovations at the Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival, Ryan Coogler is clearly Hollywood's next big thing. But a couple of years ago, he was just a film student whose heart stirred when he read the story of Oscar Grant III, the young man who was killed without cause in a Bay Area BART station on New Year's Day 2009.
"[This film] is about us," Coogler says. "It's about our society." Coogler found an early mentor in Forest Whitaker, who signed on to executive produce the film after just one meeting with the aspiring director, and he found his Oscar Grant in actor Michael B. Jordan. The Friday Night Lights star put in overtime to make his portrayal of Oscar feel authentic and layered.
"Everything becomes politicized, and pretty soon you're not human," Coogler says of his decision to stay away from politics in his portrayal of the events on Oscar's last day.
To hear the up-and-comer talk more about his film, Trayvon Martin and much more, check out our exclusive clip below. Fruitvale Station, produced by Weinstein Company in association with BET Films, hits theaters on July 12.
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(Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Grey Goose)