Actor Chadwick Boseman, who played black icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown before finding fame as the regal Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe, has died of cancer, his representative said. He was 43.
Boseman died at his home in the Los Angeles area with his wife and family by his side, his publicist Nicki Fioravante said on Friday.
Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family said in a statement.
From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilsons Ma Raineys Black Bottom and several more – all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honour of his career to bring King TChalla to life in Black Panther.”
Boseman had not spoken publicly about his diagnosis.
Born in South Carolina, Boseman graduated from Howard University and had small roles in television before his first star turn in 2013. His striking portrayal of the stoic baseball star Robinson opposite Harrison Ford in 2013s 42 drew attention in Hollywood.
Boseman died on a day that major league baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson day.
“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.
“This broke me,” said actor and writer Issa Rae.
This broke me.
— Issa Rae (@IssaRae) August 29, 2020
His T’Challa character was first introduced to the blockbuster Marvel movies in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, and his Wakanda Forever salute reverberated around the world after the release of Black Panther two years ago. It took in more than $1.3 bn in global box office and is the only Marvel Studios film to receive a best picture Oscar nomination.
He took on his first producing job in last years action thriller 21 Bridges, in which he also starred, and was last seen on-screen in Spike Lees film Da 5 Bloods as the leader of a group of Black soldiers in the Vietnam War.
Boseman completed one last performance, in an adaptation of August Wilson’s Neflix film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The film, in which Boseman stars alongside Viola Davis, finished shooting last summer.
Even at the outset of his Hollywood career, Boseman was clear-eyed about and even sceptical of the industry in which he would become an international star.
“You don’t have the same exact experience as a black actor as you do as a white actor. You don’t have the same opportunities. That’s evident and true,” he said while promoting 42.
“The best way to put it is: How often do you see a movie about a black hero who has a love story … he has a spirituality. He has an intellect. It’s weird to say it, but it doesn’t happen that often.”
Asked about his own childhood heroes and icons, Boseman cited political leaders and musicians: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Marley, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest and Prince. Deeply private and often guarded in his public appearances and interviews, he made clear that he understood the significance of his work and its impact on the broader culture.