Chadwick Boseman Worked On 7 Movies While Fighting Colon Cancer

On August 28, 2020, Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer at home with his wife and family, per a statement posted to his social media accounts. He was 43 years old. The statement explained that Boseman was diagnosed in 2016 with stage 3 colon cancer, but it progressed to stage 4

"A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much," the statement read. "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." Yes, he even filmed Black Panther, which came out in 2018, after his diagnosis, which makes his role as T'Challa all the more moving. 

Per Associated Press, Boseman didn't talk publicly about his cancer diagnosis, so many fans might be surprised to learn just how many movies he filmed while also managing his treatment. These are all the movies Boseman worked on in between treating his cancer. 

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom will be his last film

Netflix's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is set to be released later in 2020, making the death of Chadwick Boseman all the sadder as the film was very much intended to center Boseman as an Oscar contender, per Entertainment Weekly. It will also be Boseman's last film.

Produced by Denzel Washington and co-starring Viola Davis as Ma Rainey, the movie is an adaptation of August Wilson's 1982 play of the same name. It's set in 1920s Chicago and tells the story of four band members waiting for the singer, Ma Rainey, to show up, and having to appease two white producers. Boseman plays Levee, a trumpet player with dreams of making it big one day. Levee is the central character of the story, as his interactions with other band members drive the story. 

Davis mourned her co-star in a tweet, writing, "Chadwick... no words to express my devastation of losing you. Your talent, your spirit, your heart, your authenticity... It was an honor working beside you, getting to know you. Rest well prince."

Da 5 Bloods was hailed by critics

Chadwick Boseman also starred in the Netflix movie Da 5 Bloods, which follows the story of four Black Vietnam vets returning decades later "to find their squad leader's remains — and a stash of buried gold," per the Netflix description. Boseman plays Stormin' Norman, the squad leader. 

Directed by Spike Lee, the July 2020 film was Boseman's last release before his death, and it was hailed by critics. The Atlantic, for example, wrote that the film touches on a topic not often discussed: Black military veterans. David Sims wrote for the outlet, "But Da 5 Bloods has an even wider scope, trying to take in the entire sweep of American imperialism from Vietnam on, and confronting how Black citizens sacrificed their lives for a country that didn't care about them."

While the movie's subject matter is thought-provoking and timely, Boseman also tried to bring some joy to the set. He posted a video of himself and the cast goofing around on set with Lee. The actor wrote, "Spike was calling a play. But on a hot summer day during water festival, we had an audible. Pure joy."

He played a cop in 21 Bridges

Chadwick Boseman also filmed the 2019 action film 21 Bridges during treatment. He played the lead character, a New York Police Department detective who finds himself involved in a citywide hunt for two people who've killed other officers after uncovering a massive conspiracy.

Boseman's role as an NYPD cop was quite a different role than say, T'Challa in Black Panther. Boseman told Esquire that he appreciated the change-up. 

"I mean, it's refreshing. It's a relief. I enjoy doing what I do with Black Panther, but I also enjoy not having to put on a suit or train like a professional athlete," he said. "You know, this is the type of movie that I enjoy watching the actors that I love do. It's kind of like, you want to see how you would do it. And not in a copying way, but in a, 'How do I define this in my own way?' So it was great to have that challenge, and to have something that was unfamiliar to me that I can dive into."

He trained heavily for two Avengers movies

While Chadwick Boseman starred in all sorts of movies and portrayed many different kinds of characters, most people likely know him from his Marvel character, Black Panther. Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were filmed at the same time, but they were released in 2018 and 2019, respectively, per IMDb. As Boseman said in an interview with Esquire, playing Black Panther involved a ton of training and physical work, so it's mind-boggling that Boseman managed to keep up while battling cancer. 

HuffPost journalist Matt Jacobs interviewed Boseman in 2017, when he would have been in the midst of filming the Avengers films. In hindsight, Jacobs thinks that Boseman hinted at his battle with cancer then. In a screenshot of the interview shared on Twitter, Jacobs tells Boseman he looks like he's been through the wringer and Boseman replies, with a laugh, "Oh, you don't even know. You have no idea. One day I'll live to tell the story." It certainly sounds like Boseman was hinting at something, though sadly, we'll never hear it in his own words.

He changed the world as Black Panther

Chadwick Boseman became an international superstar after playing T'Challa in 2018's Black Panther, and he allowed so many young people to finally see themselves in a Marvel superhero movie. Not only did he film the strenuous movie while disabled, but Boseman also continued to show up to press events and interact with fans despite the physical demands of his cancer diagnosis. 

That he did it all while dealing with cancer is pretty remarkable, and something that was not lost on fans in the wake of his death. Writer Clint Smith tweeted, "I keep thinking about my 3-year-old in his Black Panther costume. How he wore it almost every day when he got it, refused to take it off. The way he walked around saying 'I'm the Black Panther.' How happy it made him. What Chadwick gave us was immeasurable. What an enormous loss." 

Podcast host Patrick Monahan also wrote, "Thinking about all the stuff Chadwick Boseman made and did after a devastating diagnosis and in the midst of what must have been absolutely grueling treatments. And all that with no one outside his circle catching on at all. Truly an amazing talent. What a cruel, cruel loss." 

He filmed Marshall the year of his diagnosis

Chadwick Boseman also played Thurgood Marshall in the 2017 movie Marshall. The film began production at the beginning of 2016, the same year that Boseman was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer, so he likely learned of his diagnosis while filming or shortly after. 

The movie depicted the story of the first Black Supreme Court justice, but it wasn't initially what Boseman thought, given the point in the film where a judge declares that Marshall can't speak in court. Boseman told Roger Ebert of depicting that part of Marshall's story, "It was an extraordinary moment for me because I thought about so many moments where Black people have played in the background and white people who took the credit. And I was like, that's actually an interesting story to expose through Thurgood Marshall. So it became a beautiful film experience."

Throughout his career, Boseman was seemingly careful about the stories he wanted to tell and the characters he wanted to play — and though he never let on to the public, he may have known that these roles might be his last.