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'Black Panther' Star Chadwick Boseman Dies Of Cancer At Age 43

In his role as superhero Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman became the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first film headlined by a Black actor.
Cheriss May
NurPhoto via Getty Images
In his role as superhero Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman became the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first film headlined by a Black actor.

Updated Saturday at 4:50 a.m. ET

Actor Chadwick Boseman, who starred in Black Panther, has died at the age of 43. A statement posted on Boseman's Twitter account on Friday said the actor had battled colon cancer for the past four years. The statement said "he died in his home, with his wife and family by his side."

"A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much," the statement said. "From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods ... all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy."

Boseman was born in South Carolina and is a graduate of Howard University. Throughout his career, he was known for his portrayals of iconic historical Black figures such as Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get on Up.

In his role as the Marvel Studios superhero Black Panther and his alias, king T'Challa of Wakanda, Boseman became the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first film headlined by a Black actor. He won praise for his first appearance as the Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, garnering excitement for the character's own feature film.

Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler, broke several box office records and become the first superhero film to be nominated for the Academy Award for best picture. The film earned six other nominations and won three, becoming the MCU's first Oscar-winning film.

He portrayed Black Panther in two more Marvel films, fighting alongside the eponymous heroes of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

Black Panther, which starred a predominantly Black cast, was lauded during the 2019 awards season for its Black representation. In his speech at the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards, where the film was honored with the award for Outstanding Cast In A Motion Picture, Boseman addressed the film's cultural impact and why the cast was inspired to participate in the groundbreaking superhero flick.

"To be young, gifted and black, we all know what it's like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured," Boseman said. "Yet you are young, gifted and black. We know what it's like to be told that there is not a screen for you to be featured on, a stage for you to be featured on. We know what it's like to be the tail and not the head. We know what it's like to be beneath and not above."

"And that is what we went to work with every day. Because we knew not that we would be around during award season or that it would make a billion dollars, but we knew we had something special that we wanted to give the world," Boseman added. "That we could be full human beings in the roles that we were playing, that we could create a world that exemplified a world that we wanted to see."

Boseman graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C. with a bachelor's degree in directing in 2000. In 2018, months after the release of Black Panther, the actor addressed students at the university's commencement. After a year marked by protests over a financial aid scandal, campus housing, and tuition increases, Boseman praised the university's student activists, telling them that "everything that you fought for was not for yourself, it was for those who came after you."

"Savor the taste of your triumphs today," Boseman told the graduates. "Don't just swallow the moment whole without digesting what is actually happening here. Look down over what you conquered and appreciate what God has brought you through."

Boseman was awarded an honorary doctorate at the ceremony, where Wayne A. I. Frederick, the university's president, called him "a shining exemplar of our cherished core values of leadership, excellence, truth and service."

Across social media, fans, celebrities and public officials expressed their sympathies and reactions.

On Twitter, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the Democratic candidates for president and vice president, expressed their condolences.

"He left too early but his life made a difference," Harris wrote.

Biden praised Boseman's portrayals of the Black Panther and Jackie Robinson, saying that the actor "inspired generations and showed them they can be anything they want – even super heroes."

In a statement toEntertainment Weekly,actor Denzel Washington remembered Boseman as "a gentle soul and a brilliant artist, who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances over his short yet illustrious career." In a 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, Boseman revealed when he did not have the money to attend a summer theater program at Oxford University in England, Washington became his benefactor. Boseman didn't find out who paid for his program until he came home and received a beneficiary letter.

"Denzel paid for me. I'm sure he has no idea," he said. "I've been waiting to meet him, so I can tell him."

Many of Boseman's Marvel co-stars publicly mourned their friend. "All I have to say is the tragedies amassing this year have only been made more profound by the loss of #ChadwickBoseman," Mark Ruffalo, who portrayed Dr. Bruce Banner, also known as the Hulk, wrote.

Captain America's Chris Evans called Boseman "a true original" and a "deeply committed and constantly curious artist."

Captain Marvel star Brie Larson said Boseman was someone who "radiated power and peace." Larson portrayed Carol Danvers, or Captain Marvel, in the MCU's first film headlined by a woman. The newly introduced characters Captain Marvel and Black Panther were set to lead the next phase of Marvel films following Avengers: Endgame.

Don Cheadle, who portrayed War Machine in the Iron Man and Avenger films, said Boseman was always "light and love" to him.

Angela Bassett, Boseman's onscreen mother in Black Panther, reminisced about the day when she received an honorary degree from Howard University. Boseman was still a student then and was assigned to escort her that day. Years later, she wrote that they would spend "weeks prepping, working, sitting next to each other every morning in makeup chairs, preparing for the day together as mother and son."

"I am honored that we enjoyed that full circle experience," Bassett added. "This young man's dedication was awe-inspiring, his smile contagious, his talent unreal. So I pay tribute to a beautiful spirit, a consummate artist, a soulful brother."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Malaka Gharib is the deputy editor and digital strategist on NPR's global health and development team. She covers topics such as the refugee crisis, gender equality and women's health. Her work as part of NPR's reporting teams has been recognized with two Gracie Awards: in 2019 for How To Raise A Human, a series on global parenting, and in 2015 for #15Girls, a series that profiled teen girls around the world.