Actor Chadwick Boseman, best known for his starring role in Marvel’s blockbuster movie Black Panther (2018), has died from complications related to a four-year battle with colon cancer. Reactions on Twitter began with shock and disbelief and quickly progressed to a collective outpouring of grief and heartfelt condolences to Boseman’s family.
One reason the news came as such a shock is that Boseman kept his illness quiet since his diagnosis in 2016—the same year Captain America: Civil War (which introduced his character) was released. Principal photography for Black Panther began in January 2017, just after his diagnosis. It was a physically demanding role, but you’d never know it from Boseman’s performance. He continued to work—filming Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, 21 Bridges, and Da 5 Bloods—between surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, as his Stage III colon cancer gradually progressed to Stage IV. His final film will be the Netflix adaptation of August Wilson‘s play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, currently in post-production.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” Boseman’s family said in a statement. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more—all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”
— Chadwick Boseman (@chadwickboseman) August 29, 2020
Boseman’s acting career began with TV roles on shows like Third Watch, Law & Order, and CSI: NY. He snagged his first starring film role portraying pioneering baseball star Jackie Robinson in the 2013 biopic 42. The official Twitter account for Major League Baseball tweeted: “We are devastated by the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman. His transcendent performance in 42 will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come.”
Thomas Tull, who produced 42, offered his own remembrance:
Chadwick was a force of nature full of abundant talent and strong spirit. Tonight all baseball teams are wearing 42 to honor Jackie Robinson, and today marks the anniversary of Dr. King’s iconic I Have a Dream speech. Chad was special, he played Jackie Robinson with respect and reverence for the legacy of a man who changed the world. Chad was kind and genuine, I will miss him dearly and I will never forget him. My heart goes out to his wife and family.
Boseman played an NFL draft prospect opposite Kevin Costner in the 2014 film Draft Day and starred as James Brown in Get On Up that same year. In 2017, he starred in the biopic Marshall, playing Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice; the film focused on one of the first cases of the justice’s long legal career, the State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell.
But it was Black Panther that shot this rising star into the stratosphere. Black Panther grossed a whopping $1.3 billion worldwide—the highest-grossing film by a black director and the ninth-highest-grossing film of all time—and became the first MCU movie to win multiple Oscars (Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design). It was nominated for Best Picture, although it didn’t win. By those merits, Black Panther represents the pinnacle of mainstream achievement for black filmmakers in Hollywood (thus far), and it was Boseman’s electrifying performance as T’Challa that anchored the entire film.
Our hearts are broken and our thoughts are with Chadwick Boseman’s family. Your legacy will live on forever. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/DyibBLoBxz
— Marvel Studios (@MarvelStudios) August 29, 2020
Among those offering remembrances were Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Brie Larsen, Mark Ruffalo, Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Lena Waithe, John Boyega, Don Cheadle, Ava DuVernay, Taika Waititi, Jordan Peele, Dwayne Johnson, Sterling K. Brown, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Cary Elwes, and many others.
Here’s Kevin Feige, President, Marvel Studios & Chief Creative Officer, Marvel:
Chadwick’s passing is absolutely devastating. He was our T’Challa, our Black Panther, and our dear friend. Each time he stepped on set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared on screen, he created something truly indelible. He embodied a lot of amazing people in his work, and nobody was better at bringing great men to life. He was as smart and kind and powerful and strong as any person he portrayed. Now he takes his place alongside them as an icon for the ages. The Marvel Studios family deeply mourns his loss, and we are grieving tonight with his family.
Robert A. Iger, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, The Walt Disney Company, also quickly released a statement:
We are all heartbroken by the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman—an extraordinary talent, and one of the most gentle and giving souls I have ever met. He brought enormous strength, dignity and depth to his groundbreaking role of Black Panther; shattering myths and stereotypes, becoming a long-awaited hero to millions around the world, and inspiring us all to dream bigger and demand more than the status quo. We mourn all that he was, as well as everything he was destined to become. For his friends and millions of fans, his absence from the screen is only eclipsed by his absence from our lives. All of us at Disney send our prayers and heartfelt condolences to his family.
A sequel to Black Panther is currently in development at Marvel, with director Ryan Coogler back at the helm, scheduled for a May 6, 2022, release. Clearly the role of T’Challa will need to be recast, although it’s hard to imagine who could fill Boseman’s shoes. It’s just one of many likely future roles we’ll now never get to see. Rest in power, king.