Culture Trips

Chadwick Boseman: A film icon who changed Hollywood

It’s a testament to his talent and conviction that Boseman was able to do his finest work while his mind and body was going through traumatic treatment and ill-health. That he was able to keep it a secret while finding the energy to play a powerful superhero, a Vietnam soldier and a hot-headed musician shows how much he had in common with the resilient figures that he played. His private life was his own but in public he maintained a presence of positivity and compassion through fan and charitable endeavours as well as the art that he was creating. Above all, Boseman was a man who clearly wanted his work to speak for him rather than his fame.

“Chadwick didn’t seem like a superstar, much less a superhero [but] a man whose ordinariness was extraordinary,” critic Candice Frederick tells BBC Culture. “His natural curiosity for mankind, his compassion for not only the souls he’d fearlessly embody on screen but the people he met in real life, reminded us how simple it is to be kind, thoughtful and present. He is a symbol of what our own humanity can look like.”

His final screen outings

For Daniels, it was fitting that Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee’s Vietnam war movie, which was released on Netflix in June, was one of Boseman’s final screen outings, given his character “Stormin” Norman Earl Holloway also died during his prime. “It made him into an emblem, a memorial to what could’ve been, and to the black heroes who were never granted the gift of old age.”

But it was in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom that Boseman left all of himself on the table knowing, most likely, that this would be the very last performance he would be able to give to the world. “His wife Simone told Glenn and I at his memorial this is truly what he believes is part of his legacy,” Domingo said in the Netflix Q&A. “He couldn’t be more proud that this was his final film. He wasn’t given to us for that long, but he made such an indelible impression.”

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