On Friday evening, news came of the shocking and devastating death of Chadwick Boseman at age 43. The Black Panther star died following a quiet four-year battle with colon cancer. Known for his powerful portrayals of legends James Brown and Jackie Robinson, as well as his groundbreaking role of T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the beloved actor passed away just before the upcoming release of Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, an adaptation of the August Wilson play of the same name. It was already expected that his performance as Ma Rainey’s (Viola Davis) ambitious trumpeter Levee would put him in the awards conversation.
While Boseman made a name for himself with biopics like 42 and Get On Up, he’ll always be remembered for being a trailblazer in the superhero world. Beginning with 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Boseman ruled as King T’Challa for four movies, most notably Black Panther. The film from writer-director Ryan Coogler is arguably the most successful superhero film of all time, between earning over $1 billion at the box office, scoring Marvel both its first Oscar win and Best Picture nomination, and providing a hero for a community that rarely gets to see themselves wearing capes and saving the world.
Unsurprisingly, Black Panther 2 was quickly greenlit and looked to as a key linchpin in the MCU’s upcoming Phase Four. With Boseman and Coogler returning, the sequel had been scheduled for release on May 6, 2022. But, as production had not yet begun, the future of the film is now unknown. Recasting is nothing new in the MCU, whether it was Mark Ruffalo stepping in for Edward Norton as Hulk or Don Cheadle taking over for Terrence Howard as War Machine, but in this unprecedented situation, fans are already railing against the idea of any other actor picking up the torch.
There still is the possibility that audiences haven’t heard the last of Boseman as T’Challa. Set to debut in 2021 on Disney+, Marvel’s What If… explores what might have happened if important moments in Marvel history went down differently. It was previously announced that essentially all of the major MCU players will lend their voices to the animated anthology series, but it’s unclear at this time if Boseman had already recorded his part.
Upon news of Boseman’s death, Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios and chief creative officer of Marvel, said in a statement: “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.”
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