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 Raineys 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. Kings 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 Bosemans family. Your legacy will live on forever. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/DyibBLoBxz
— Marvel Studios (@MarvelStudios) August 29, 2020