On the August Bank Holiday weekend, the world was rocked by the news that the American actor, writer and director Chadwick Boseman had passed away after losing a private battle with colon cancer.
The actor was famed for his roles in biopics such as 42, Get On Up and Marshall, and he reached international acclaim for his role as the eponymous superhero Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film of the same name. The film opened to great anticipation, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of the year in the United States. He starred in four Marvel Cinematic Universe films in total, including Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
Marvel Studios president and CCO Kevin Feige called Boseman's death "absolutely devastating", writing: "Each time he stepped on set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared on screen, he created something truly indelible [...] Now he takes his place [as] an icon for the ages".
Following the news of his passing, social media was flooded with tributes from fellow actors, including Black Panther co-star, Lupita Nyong’o:
As fans marked their sadness at the news on social media, a video from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon resurfaced in which Black Panther fans were made to stand in front of a movie poster as they talked about what the film meant to them. What they didn’t know was that Boseman was standing behind the curtains with host Jimmy Fallon, listening to their messages and waiting to surprise them.
One fan said: “It means a lot to see a movie that is not like a Black movie, but just a great American superhero movie with people that look like me.”
Boseman’s death came as such a shock because he kept his illness a secret, despite being diagnosed in 2016, the actor continued to pursue his career as he underwent multiple surgeries and chemotherapy; he headlined the film 21 Bridges in 2019 and had a supporting role in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods in 2020. Those close to the star have remarked how he kept working despite being under immense physical discomfort. His final film, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, is scheduled to be released posthumously.
The actor won a number of awards for his work, including the NAACP Image Award for ‘Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture’, a Black Reel Award for ‘Outstanding Actor’ and a Screen Actors Guild Award for ‘Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture’.
SAE lecturers have reacted to the sad news of his passing. SAE Glasgow Digital Film Production lecturer Paul Mackie said: “This is possibly one of the most heartbreaking losses to our industry in a long time, firstly because he was only just getting started in his career and secondly because no one had any idea that he faced such a battle every day, whilst continuing to make art. In his short few years he managed to pull off the balance of being a character actor and an action star. I will never forget the first film I saw him in, Ivan Reitman's Draft Day, because the emotionality in his performance took me completely by surprise and when they announced him as Black Panther, I was thrilled because I knew he deserved a much bigger canvas than just sport movies and biopics. Not only has he left a body of work behind that will continue to inspire generations, but he has left his humility and positive attitude to work behind, which I hope young performers can take on board as they try and develop their careers. I know a few people that had the pleasure of working with him during his time at Marvel and they spoke of a man that could electrify a room when the cameras were rolling, then blend silently and gently into the background on cut. He was forthcoming with his time to the dedicated fans and was unwavering in his own moral compass when it came to choosing the roles he stepped into. To quote the King himself "...death is not the end. it's more of a stepping off point..."
SAE London Digital Film Production Programme Coordinator Dino Jacovides said: “The terrible tragedy of Chadwick Boseman has left the film world stunned. Chadwick was an incredible actor who, contrary to belief, plugged away at its parts before the breakthrough of Black Panther. He surely had an excellent career in front of him as a lead with an acting range to accomplish a variety of roles. His passing is a loss to audiences and the industry in equal fold. Rest in peace.”