There is nothing about the death of Chadwick Boseman that isn't utterly heartbreaking, but a part of what makes the emotions so powerful is the understanding of the incredible strength the man demonstrated in the last four years. A testament to pure fortitude, the actor took on some remarkably challenging roles and projects while simultaneously going through treatment for a terminal illness, and in all that time he never revealed or even really hinted at his personal struggle.
This very much includes Boseman's time making writer/director Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods, which was released on Netflix earlier this summer, and during an event this past weekend the filmmaker opened up about his experience working with the man.
According to E!, Lee addressed the passing of Chadwick Boseman during his annual Brooklyn MJ Block Party (an event celebrating Michael Jackson's birthday), and he talked about the opportunity he had to work with the actor last year. According to the writer/director, the conditions on the set of his latest movie were far from comfortable, but there was never a point when he had insight into what Boseman was going through personally:
We filmed Da 5 Bloods in Thailand, and it was hot, jungles, mountains, and Chadwick was there with us all the way. I never, ever suspected that anything was wrong. No one knew he was going through treatment, chemotherapy.
In Da 5 Bloods, a group of Vietnam Veterans (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr.) travel back to the site of the international conflict with two intentions: finding a lost locker full of gold bars, and also the body of their former squad leader, "Stormin'" Norman Earl Holloway – played by Chadwick Boseman – so that he can be given a proper burial. Boseman is primarily featured in flashback sequences that feature quite a lot of action and are mostly set deep in the jungle.
Continuing, Spike Lee explained that the harsh conditions during the making of the movie never inspired a single negative reaction from the actor, and that he believes the nature of the man comes through in what we see in the finished cut. Said Lee,
A trooper. He never complained. He was there every single minute, in the moment, and his performance is testament to what he put into that role and all his roles.
The filmmaker also specifically meditated on one scene in Da 5 Bloods that was apparently cut from the movie due to the inability to use an unspecified Marvin Gaye song. Spike Lee expressed that he was particularly moved by Chadwick Boseman's performance in the moment, and that he decided to rewatch it on Saturday morning after the news broke of Boseman's passing on Friday night. The filmmaker said,
That scene got me when we were shooting it. Watching that again this morning just tore me up.
For those of you who haven't seen it, Da 5 Bloods is currently available to watch on Netflix – and we couldn't recommend it more highly. Not only is it truly one of the best films of the year so far, but Chadwick Boseman's turn really is remarkable and beautiful, and an impressive illustration by itself of his incredible talent. It can't be repeated enough times: he will be deeply, deeply missed.