Chadwick Boseman became a legend in Hollywood thanks to his phenomenal on-screen portrayals of real-life historical legends like Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall, as well as his role as the groundbreaking title character in Marvel’s Black Panther. Every major role Boseman played was as esteemed as the last, and his celebrated work lives on in films that will be watched for decades to come by current and future generations. Boseman continued to posthumously earn award nominations and wins for work he completed, as his health declined, in films that were released after he died of colon cancer complications at just 43 years old on Aug. 28, 2020.
He was as beloved a man off-screen as he was for his formidable on-screen talent. Upon Boseman’s death, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige released a statement to People that read in part, “Each time [Boseman] 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.”
Social media was soon flooded with tributes from fans and colleagues echoing this sentiment. In the following days and weeks, several of the late star’s friends and co-stars shared stories about their final encounters with him — and they all reveal just how palpable Chadwick Boseman’s absence is in Hollywood.
Samuel L. Jackson was marveled by Chadwick Boseman's talent
During an appearance on the Tamron Hall Show in September 2020, Samuel L. Jackson opened up about his late co-star, Chadwick Boseman, with whom he’d worked in two Marvel Cinematic Universe films, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
Revealing that Boseman’s death was “sudden for us all,” because the actor had not shared his 2016 colon cancer diagnosis with his Marvel co-stars, Jackson told Hall how he had been planning for quite some time to work with the Black Panther star and other MCU actors on a project that was perhaps ill-fated due to scheduling conflicts. “I was trying to remember the last time I had actually seen Chadwick … It was at the Captain Marvel premiere,” Jackson said. “We started talking about another project that I had hoped that we were gonna work on, and he was like, ‘I’m sorry, y’all, I’m not going to be there, but I wish we were gonna work together.’
Jackson also spoke of the societal impact of Boseman’s death. “It’s gut-wrenching to lose someone that’s such an important part of the culture in terms of what he became to the world in terms of Black Panther,” Jackson said. “We all hope, when we work, that people remember things that we do, but he imprinted society in such a way and impacted, especially, the Black culture in giving kids a hero that they could aspire to. To lose him … It’s devastating.”
Sienna Miller said Chadwick Boseman was a hero off-screen, too
In February 2021, Chadwick Boseman’s 21 Bridges co-star, Sienna Miller, opened up to The Sunday Times Culture Magazine (via The Roanoke Times) about his noticeable fatigue while shooting the 2019 film. Noting that the actor’s physical exhaustion made sense in hindsight, she admitted, “I would never have known he was sick to the degree he was … It never affected the work. But he was very thin — thinner when we went back to reshoot.”
Reminiscing about their final goodbye, Miller said, “In reflection … it felt like a real goodbye. And I remember being really moved, but also really confused. He had tears in his eyes … I felt it was the sweetest thing ever, and I never saw him again.”
While Miller didn’t have an inkling about Boseman dealing with late-stage colon cancer, she revealed that he went to battle for her during salary negotiations, telling Empire that he had reduced his own salary for 21 Bridges so she would be fairly compensated for her work. “It was about the most astounding thing that I’ve experienced. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen,” she explained. “[Boseman] said, ‘You’re getting paid what you deserve, and what you’re worth.’ It’s just unfathomable to imagine another man in that town behaving that graciously or respectfully. In the aftermath of this I’ve told other male actor friends of mine that story and they all go very, very quiet and go home and probably have to sit and think about things for a while.”
Josh Gad shared a poetic missive from Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman’s Marshall co-star, Josh Gad, took to Twitter to share one of the last texts he received from his dear friend. Asking his followers to “take this in & celebrate life,” Gad wrote that Boseman “knew how precious every moment was,” adding, “Tonight the Heavens received one of its most powerful angels.”
Boseman’s text to Gad read, “If you are in Los Angeles, you woke up this morning to the rare and peaceful sound of a steady precipitation. If you’re like me, maybe you looked at the week’s forecast and found that it’s supposed to rain for three straight days; not without breaks of sunlight and reprieves of moist gloom … But now that the rain has stopped and today’s storm has cleared, I urge you to go outside and take a DEEP breath.”
The Marvel actor went on to encourage his friend to immerse himself in clarity and simplicity: “Notice how fresh the air is right now, after our skies have had a 3 week break from the usual relentless [barrage] of fumes from bumper to bumper LA commuters … Inhale and exhale this moment.” He added, “We should take advantage of every moment we can to enjoy the simplicity of God’s creation, whether it be clear skies and sun or clouded over with gloom.”
This rainy-day message to Gad was yet another testament to Boseman’s commitment to spreading love, joy, and enlightenment to everyone in his life.
Angela Bassett viewed her journey with Chadwick Boseman as fate
Chadwick Boseman’s on-screen mother in Black Panther, Angela Bassett, served as an inspiration to him long before he had made it big in Hollywood. Bassett posted a tribute to Boseman on Instagram following his death, and she revealed a relatively-unknown bond the two shared.
“It was meant to be for Chadwick and me to be connected, for us to be family,” Bassett wrote. “But what many don’t know is our story began long before his historic turn as Black Panther. During the premiere party for Black Panther, Chadwick reminded me of something. He whispered that when I received my honorary degree from Howard University, his alma mater, he was the student assigned to escort me that day. And here we were, years later as friends and colleagues, enjoying the most glorious night ever.” Pointing to the long hours they spent preparing for and shooting the film as a mother/son team, she added, “I am honored that we enjoyed that full circle experience. This young man’s dedication was awe-inspiring, his smile contagious, his talent unreal.”
Bassett described Boseman as “a beautiful spirit, a consummate artist, a soulful brother.” In January 2021, she told ET that she was glad the role Boseman played, King T’Challa, would not be recast for Black Panther‘s upcoming sequel, revealing that film required “a major pivot” because they were unprepared for Boseman’s death. Bassett noted, “They are still working on that now because none of us knew anything.”
Chadwick Boseman was set to be an 'expatriate' from Wakanda alongside Barry Jenkins
Director Barry Jenkins, who won the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay in 2017 for best picture winner Moonlight, announced in January 2018 plans to work on a new project with Chadwick Boseman. The Hollywood Reporter revealed Jenkins was set to direct Expatriate, a spy thriller centered around the hijacking of a plane in the 1970s. The film was co-written by Boseman and his writing partner, Logan Coles, and the Black Panther actor was to have been the film’s star. As of this writing, IMDBPro reports the project is still in development with Marc Platt Productions, but it sounds like Expatriate might have been shelved for reasons other than Boseman’s death.
When news broke that Boseman had died from colon cancer complications, Jenkins released a statement expressing his “unspeakable sadness” over losing his would-be collaborator. Per Deadline, Jenkins said, “The last time I saw Chadwick, it was across a crowded room. It had been a while, but I made my way and as I apologized to him for my role in the dissolution of a project we were meant to make together. He paused me, placed his hand on my shoulder and said: ‘Don’t even trip.’ Followed by: ‘You good, though?’ This was well within his very private fight. I have no doubt I’m not alone in this experience.”
It seems the two men maintained mutual respect regardless of the reason Expatriate was tabled.
Taylor Kitsch and Chadwick Boseman wanted to work together again
Another one of Chadwick Boseman’s 21 Bridges co-stars, Taylor Kitsch, revealed on Instagram that his last few moments with the deceased actor were filled with laughter, writing, “Our last few moments we joked n said we gotta do something together…maybe more than 1 scene.” Kitsch added, “I told him I’d love nothin’ more and I’ll hold him to it. I look back and I’m grateful for the time we had. The laughs, chatting about the work, how I’d rib him to ‘go get some rest… something tells me you’ll be busy for a long time.’ He just flashed that ridiculous smile and with only his grace, just nodded. He truly was one of the good ones.”
Kitsch also revealed that he’d agreed to do the film in order to work with Boseman, adding, “Getting to know him throughout the shoot off screen is where he truly shined. He was gracious and genuine. Truly listened. Cared. And not a false bone in his body. He would constantly check in and see if there was anything he could do throughout the shoot to facilitate, all without motive. Just there to help.” The actor continued, “I remember walking off set after the first day and we chatted and I started to joke about how I didn’t have the accent where I wanted it yet…The next day we had our dialect coach waiting for us.”
Kitsch concluded, “They say there’s just certain people that have that inexplicable charisma…the intangibles…he had those in spades.”
The Obamas stanned Chadwick Boseman
Following Chadwick Boseman’s death, former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama shared tributes on social media, during which they recalled his visit with 80 high school and college students at the White House’s screening of his 2013 film, 42, about Jackie Robinson, per People.
Gleaming about Boseman being a real-life role model for children, Barack quote-tweeted Boseman’s post about their last 2016 meeting with, “You could tell right away that he was blessed. To be young, gifted, and Black; to use that power to give them heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain — what a use of his years.” On Instagram, Michelle noted of his White House appearance, “I saw that Chadwick’s brilliance on screen was matched by a warmth and sincerity in person. There’s a reason he could play Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and King T’Challa with such captivating depth and honesty … he, too, belongs right there with them as a hero — for Black kids and for all of our kids.”
At said event, People reports that Michelle told the students, “It took Chadwick 10 years of hard work before landing his first starring role. So this stuff doesn’t come easy. If you gain nothing from this movie or any of our lives, there is no magic. It takes grit. It takes determination and a whole lot of hard work … It takes guts.” While most people didn’t know just how much Chadwick Boseman persevered until he was gone, his impact lives on in these stories.
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