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Chadwick Boseman in Da 5 Bloods

Hollywood, countless fans and Chadwick Boseman’s family, friends and colleagues are still processing the shocking death of the Black Panther actor. He died in late August of Stage 3 colon cancer at the age of 43. In the week following news broke of his passing, many of his closest collaborators admitted to be in the dark about his sickness, including Spike Lee.

Da 5 Bloods was shot in early 2019, ahead of its drop on Netflix over the summer. Co-star Chadwick Boseman was quietly battling cancer at the time, but Spike Lee never knew it. In the legendary director’s words:

He did not look well, but my mind never took that he had cancer. It was a very strenuous shoot. I mean, we all didn’t get to Vietnam until the end of the movie at Ho Chi Minh City. But that other stuff, the jungle stuff, was shot in Thailand. It was 100 degrees every day. It was also, at that time, the worst air pollution in the world. I understand why Chadwick didn’t tell me because he didn’t want me to take it easy. If I had known, I wouldn’t have made him do the stuff. And I respect him for that.

Chadwick Boseman was reportedly dealing with a colon diagnosis for four years before his death. During this time, he debuted his Black Panther in Civil War, before playing the hero three more times in his solo outing and two Avengers films. He also made Marshall, 21 Bridges, Da 5 Bloods and his upcoming final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

As Spike Lee told Variety during his cover interview, in retrospect he respects Chadwick Boseman’s decision not to disclose his battle with cancer. If he had known, he thinks he would have had the actor pull back on his performance for his health. Lee recalls Boseman was weak during the shoot in Vietnam, but it never crossed his mind it could be cancer.

Black Panther director Ryan Coogler did not know about Boseman’s battle with cancer either until after his death. It’s almost unbelievable to hear this, especially since Boseman was in the height of his career doing strenuous stunts in action-heavy movies during a time when his health was deteriorating. This fact goes to show Boseman’s strength in character. He didn’t let the ticking clock stop him from offering up his best work.

Spike Lee recalled on the night of Chadwick Boseman’s death, he went to sleep early. When he woke up the following morning, he was flooded with messages on his phone about the news. The director said he has since watched Da 5 Bloods again, and it plays totally different now. Ironically enough, Boseman’s character in the searing war film grapples with death and legacy.

Boseman’s Da 5 Bloods co-star Clarke Peters previously admitted to noticing the actor being pampered on the set of the film and thinking, “Maybe the Black Panther thing went to his head.” Of course he had no idea what the actor was going through, and regrets having those thoughts. You never really know what someone is going through, and Boseman’s story is a testament to this.

Chadwick Boseman’s last movie Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is heading to Netflix on December 18. Keep track of what other movies are rounding out 2020 with CinemaBlend’s release schedule.

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