Chadwick Boseman, star of “Black Panther,” died on Friday after a four year battle with colon cancer, his rep confirmed to Variety. He was 43.
Before he was cast as the 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”).
“It is with endless grief that we verify the passing of Chadwick Boseman,” said a statement posted to his Twitter feed. “It was the honor of his life to make King T’Challa to life in ‘Black Panther.’”
“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.”
Walt Disney Co. chairman Bob Iger said, “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.”
Poignantly, Boseman’s death is on the same day as Jackie Robinson Day, MLB’s annual celebration of the pioneering player.
Reaction to Boseman’s death was swift and profound. Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the Democratic candidates for president and vice president, expressed their condolences on Twitter.
Feige first announced that Boseman had been cast as T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, on Oct. 28, 2014, at a splashy press presentation of the studio’s upcoming slate. The actor won wide praise for his first appearance as the character in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” which only made expectations for the impending debut of “Black Panther” — the first-ever Marvel Studios movie headlined by a Black actor — that much greater.
Boseman, at least outwardly, shouldered them with ease — even after the film shattered box office records when it debuted in Feb. 2018. “Black Panther” earned over $1.3 billion worldwide, forever showing the deadly untruth in Hollywood that movies with predominantly Black casts won’t gross well overseas.
It’s difficult to overstate the impact “Black Panther” and Boseman had on the larger culture. The film was the first superhero movie ever nominated by the Academy Awards for best picture, earning six other nominations and winning three. More to the point, as Black Panther, Boseman 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.
Before “Black Panther” premiered, he was asked by Variety about the possibility of making a sequel.
“I’m enjoying this moment,” he said. “If we start discussing about sequels — if we do four of them, two of them, three of them — I just require them all to be extraordinary like this one.”
Boseman is survived by his wife and family.