Two years after his death and Marvel fans are still left with questions over how Chadwick Boseman died and what caused his death at the young age of 43 years old.
Boseman, whose full name was Chadwick Aaron Boseman, was born on November 19, 1976, in Anderson, South Carolina. His first major role came in 2010 when he played Sergeant Graham McNair in NBC’s Person Unknown, which ran for one season. His breakthrough performance came three years later when he played the first Black Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson in 2013’s 42. Boseman’s career continued with other biographical films—such as 2014’s Get on Up in which he played singer James Brown and 2017’s Marshall in which he played Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall—before his big break as T’Challa, also known as the Black Panther, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther franchise.
Boseman made his debut as the Black Panther in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War before he led his own movie as the character in 2018’s Black Panther. The movie, which grossed more than $1.3 billion worldwide, became Marvel Studios’ first movie to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Boseman starred as the Black Panther for two more movies, 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War and 2019’s Avengers as well as four episodes of Disney Plus’ What If…?, before his death in 2020. Boseman died on August 28, 2020. He was 43 years old. “He is the most honest person I’ve ever met,” Boseman’s wife, Simone Ledward, said at the 2021 Gotham Awards. “Because he didn’t just stop at speaking the truth, he actively searched for it in himself, in those around him and in the moment. The truth can be a very easy thing for the self to avoid, but if one does not live in truth, then it’s impossible to live in line with a divine purpose.”
So how did Chadwick Boseman die and what was his cause of death? Read on for what we know about how Chadwick Boseman died and how his death has led others to seek answers about their health.
How did Chadwick Boseman die?
How did Chadwick Boseman die? Boseman died on August 28, 2020, after a four-year battle with colon cancer. He was 43 years old. “It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled it with these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV,” his family wrote at the time in a statement on his social media. “A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wild’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.” The statement continued, “It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther. He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side. The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige also said in a statement at the time, “Chadwick’s passing is absolutely devastating. 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 Company chairman Bob Iger added in his own statement, “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.”
What was Chadwick Boseman’s cause of death?
What was Chadwick Boseman’s cause of death? Boseman’s cause of death was colon cancer. TMZ reported in September 2020 that Boseman’s death led to a massive increase in donations to colon cancer awareness and research. The disease is the third leading form of cancer in both women and men in the United States. Anjee Davis, President of Fight Colorectal Cancer, told TMZ at the time that her organization received a boost in social media followers and donations of more than $10,000 within days of Boseman’s death. She told TMZ at the time that the funds will be used toward research for better treatment options and a cure for colon caner. She also hoped that Boseman’s death increased awareness around the disease and motivated people to look into their family history of colon cancer and undergo early screenings if they’ve noticed signs or symptoms.
Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, also told told TMZ that Boseman’s death brought “the most monumental change” to how people viewed colon cancer. Cindy Borassi, Interim President for the Colon Cancer Foundation, also said that Boseman’s “larger-than-life personality” helped boost outreach, awareness and support for colon cancer research during a time when screenings went down amid the current health crisis. She told TMZ at the time that donations to her organization increased by at least 300 percent within days of Boseman’s death. Gus Rodriguez, a man from Atlantis, Florida, told CBS 12 in March 2021 about how Boseman’s cause of death led him to get screened for colon cancer after years of ignoring the signs. “I turned to my wife and said, ‘I got a confession to make,'” he said. “She said, ‘You gotta get it checked out’ and I said, ‘You’re right.'” “Chadwick Boseman was a hero on and off the screen and he was young,” Dr. Heidi Bahna, a colorectal surgeon at JFK Hospital in Atlantis, told CBS 12, which reported that Rodriguez learned from a colonoscopy that his cancer was in the early stages. Dr. Bahna performed the surgery before it could spread. “We were able to do a robotic, minimally invasive surgery, and he was cured of his cancer and will get chemotherapy to make sure this cancer doesn’t come back,” he said. “Early colon cancers are often treated with surgery alone, and have a very good survival, about 90 percent for stage one and two,” added Dr. Juliet Ray, a colorectal surgeon at JFK.
Dr. Michael Hunter, a forensic pathologist, also explained in the documentary Autopsy: The Last Hours Of… Chadwick Boseman in 2022 that it was rare for Boseman to die so young from colon cancer. “Chadwick Boseman died from colon cancer at an incredibly young age. I’ve already identified that, as a child, he suffered from a hernia that can lead to intestinal issues linked to colon cancer,” he said. He continued, “But I don’t believe this alone can explain how Chadwick developed the disease so young. As with all cancers, catching it in the early stages is vital for survival.”
Boseman’s last role was as the voice of T’Challa / Black Panther in four episodes of Disney Plus’ animated series, What If…?, which were released a year after his death. In an interview on the “Wakanda Forever: The Official Black Panther Podcast” in 2022, director Ryan Coogler—who directed 2019’s Black Panther and 2022’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever—revealed that Boseman didn’t read the script for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever before his death. “I just finished it, man. My last conversation was calling him, asking him if he wanted to read it before I got notes from the studio,” he said. “That was the last time we spoke. And yeah, so I, you know, he passed maybe a couple weeks after I finished.”
Though he didn’t know Boseman had colon cancer at the time, Coogler told the podcast that he could“tell something was up” with the actor and his health. “He was tired, bro. I could tell he was tired. I’d been trying to get a hold of him for a few days and Denzel [Washington] had been trying to get a hold of him too,” he said. “So I texted him and told him, ‘Hey man, Denzel said he’s been looking for you too.’ Because he just did Ma Rainey for Denzel. So he called me. And I could tell he was laying down. We were talking. And Simone [Boseman] was with him. And he kicks Simone out, because he told her he didn’t want her to hear nothing that could get him in trouble with the NDA. And she didn’t wanna leave him. So I could tell something was up. But they were joking and laughing.” Coogler also said that Boseman didn’t want to read the script for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever “because he didn’t wanna get in the way of whatever notes the studio might have. So he was like, ‘It’s better if I can read it later.’ But I found later that he was too tired to read anything.”
In an interview with Empire magazine in 2022, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige explained why the studio decided to not recast T’Challa after Boseman’s death.“It just felt like it was much too soon to recast,” he said. “Stan Lee always said that Marvel represents the world outside your window. And we had talked about how, as extraordinary and fantastical as our characters and stories are, there’s a relatable and human element to everything we do. The world is still processing the loss of Chad. And [director] Ryan [Coogler] poured that into the story.” He continued, “The conversations were entirely about, yes, ‘What do we do next?’ And how could the legacy of Chadwick — and what he had done to help Wakanda and the Black Panther become these incredible, aspirational, iconic ideas — continue? That’s what it was all about.”
Producer Nate Moore also explained why T’Challa wasn’t recast in a 2021 inteview on “The Ringer-Verse” podcast. “We just couldn’t do it,” he said. “When Chad passed, it was a real conversation we had with [director Ryan] Coogler about what do we do, and it was a fast conversation,” Moore said. “I think we all feel so much of T’Challa in the MCU on the screen – not in comics – is tied to Chadwick’s performance, is what he brought to that role both on and off-screen.” He added that the most difficult challenge of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was how to tell “a story without T’Challa” He continued, “[There will be a] level of … catharsis in people coming back this universe without that guy, because that guy and that universe to me are one in the same”.
Winston Duke, who plays M’Baku in the Black Panther movies, also explained on “Jemele Hill is Unbothered” podcast in 2022 why he agreed with Marvel’s decision to not recast Boseman as T’Challa. I think for this iteration of Black Panther, it’s very hard for me to comment on something like that because I’m of the mind that this is Chadwick’s role. Chadwick created this and Black Panther wouldn’t be the same without Chadwick Boseman who stood for the things that he stood for. When you cast a person, you’re also casting their experiences, you’re casting their politics, you’re casting all these things. Black Panther was heavily defined by the actor that did it, in my opinion,” he said.
For more about Chadwick Boseman, read Mia Johnson’s 2020 biography, Chadwick Boseman: Forever Our King. The book, which was published four months after Boseman’s death from colon cancer on August 28, 2020 at the age of 43, takes Marvel fans through Boseman’s career and life from how he was cast as King T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther franchise to his secret diagnosis with colon cancer in 2016, two years before the premiere of the first Black Panther movie. The biography—which donates a portion of its proceeds to Fight Colorectal Cancer, an organization dedicating to researching and raising awareness around rectal cancer—also includes dozens of full-color photographs and details about Boseman’s childhood in South Carolina and his final days before his death. “If you love Chadwick Boseman, and who doesn’t, you need this book,” one reviewer wrote.
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