Actor Chadwick Boseman, the star of the enormously successful Marvel film, Black Panther, has died after a four year battle against colon cancer. He was only 43 years old. The actor kept his diagnosis and four-year struggle against the disease quiet from the public. According to his publicist, Boseman died at home in Los Angeles with his wife, Taylor Simone Ledward and his family by his side.
Before he found fame as the beloved Marvel Studios superhero, Boseman’s career first exploded with his portrayals of Black American icons, Jackie Robinson (in 2013’s “42”) and James Brown (in 2014’s “Get on Up”). However, his Iconic role as the Black Panther, the King of the mythical African land of Wakanda, took his stardom to the stratosphere.
“It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther”
“It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman,” his family said in the statement posted to his Twitter feed. Although Boseman never spoke publicly about his diagnosis, according to the statement, he worked through his treatment for much of his career.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. 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.”
“He was our T’Challa, our Black Panther, and our dear friend”
“Chadwick’s passing is absolutely devastating,” said Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios and chief creative officer of Marvel, in a statement. “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.”
Boseman’s Rise To Fame
Chadwick was born the youngest of three boys and raised in Anderson, South Carolina, by his mother, who worked as a nurse, and father, who worked in a textile factory. When he was a junior in high school, Boseman wrote and staged a play about the shooting death of a basketball teammate, which turned his life towards the arts. He studied directing at Howard University, where he was mentored by Phylicia Rashad. He graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Directing. And went on to attend drama school in London before returning to the US.
Boseman’s first film role came in 42, the film about the baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, the first Black player in major league baseball. Chadwick’s unfortunate demise comes amid the nation’s emotional reckoning with racial justice and on Jackie Robinson Day.
His role in 42 launched a string of bigger pictures. Boseman went on to appear with Kevin Costner in NFL saga Draft Day, then portrayed soul singer James Brown in Get On Up. He also appeared in 2016 as an Egyptian deity in the film, Gods of Egypt.
Tributes and Condolences
The shocking news of Boseman’s death reverberated around social media, with celebrities and fans paying tributes to the young actor who touched so many lives.
Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the Democratic candidates for president and vice president, expressed their condolences on Twitter.
“This is a crushing blow,” actor and director Jordan Peele said on Twitter, one of many expressing shock as the news spread across social media.
Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk in the popular Marvel Franchise,penned an emotional tribute to his co-star.
In a statement following Boseman’s death, Martin Luther King III said the actor “brought history to life” with his roles. “As Black Panther, he was also a superhero to many,” he wrote on Twitter. “And despite his 4 year long battle with cancer, he kept fighting and he kept inspiring. He will be missed.”
The NAACP also paid tribute to the actor on Twitter, praising him for “showing us how to conquer adversity with grace … for showing us just how powerful we are.”
An icon for children of color
In 2016, Boseman appeared for the first time as Black Panther in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. His Wakanda Forever salute reverberated around the world after he headlined his own Black Panther movie two years ago. The film, directed by Ryan Coogler, Marvel Studios’ first Black director, became a cultural touchstone with its Black-led cast.
It went on to earn an astounding $1.34 billion globally, No. 14 on the global list of all-time releases. Nearly half of that came internationally, helping dispel tired Hollywood notions that Black-led films could not perform well overseas. Boseman’s Panther became an icon for children of color, coming at a time when representation was only just beginning to become a priority in Hollywood.
The character appeared again in the massive blockbusters Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which became the films of the years in 2018 and 2019. With Endgame becoming the highest-grossing film of all-time.
“I hope people will watch this movie and see the hero in themselves”
Boseman’s Black Panther presented to the world an image of a powerful and thoughtful Black man who was the leader of a thriving African nation and a superhero willing to race into whatever battle he felt was worth fighting, no matter the odds.
Four years ago, he was headlining the Los Angeles premiere of Black Panther, which began with an emotional standing ovation for the cast.
He spoke in an interview at the time saying, “I hope people will watch this movie and see the hero in themselves. Even if it’s a white person who sees it, if they can see a Black character and identify with them, it changes a little bit about how our society is.” Boseman is survived by his wife and family.