Friday, we lost an actor who would have been a cinema legend.
When I first watched Chadwick Boseman, who died Friday at 43, as T’Challa in Marvel’s “Black Panther,” the first comic book film to transcend the genre with true artistry, I knew he was the real deal. I was reminded of another enduring cinematic genius: James Earl Jones.
Jones made his name by bellowing the plays of August Wilson on Broadway and then became an international superstar as the voice of Darth Vader in 1977’s “Star Wars.”
Boseman was poised for a similar household-name trajectory; to be an American icon. Smart “Black Panther” fans quickly understood that this regal presence was a force to be reckoned with; an actor who you respected and bowed down to without question. An instantaneously memorable person. A star. But he left us too soon.
Beyond the tragedy of a life lost, we’ve been robbed of a defining artist of our time.
Boseman was an actor of supreme intellect and power, who could lift a cop thriller like “21 Bridges” well beyond its limited intentions — in the same way Meryl Streep can revitalize a subpar romcom — as easily as he can tackle a weighty historical role like Thurgood Marshall. Boseman also accomplished what all actors dream of: to become on-the-street recognizably famous in the earliest stages of his career. He deserved it.
At 43 years old, Boseman was just beginning. One of the best new films of the coronavirus pandemic was Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” in which Boseman played an integral role. His committed choices as an actor were clear, and he would’ve entertained and enlightened us with Oscar-bait as well as action-packed pictures for years to come.
This remembrance was written late, and in tears. No young person deserves to die so soon, especially not such an extraordinary actor who would’ve given us so much more.
Wakanda — and Chadwick — forever.