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'Black Panther' star Chadwick Boseman dies after battle with cancer

Boseman, who skyrocketed to international fame in the role of King T'Challa in the 2018 blockbuster, died after a four-year battle with colon cancer.
Image: Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther
Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther.Matt Kennedy / Marvel Studios

Actor Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed the Black Panther on the big screen, died Friday after a four-year battle with cancer, his family said in a statement on social media. He was 43.

Boseman had not spoken about his bout with cancer, and his death came as a shock to many.

He died at his home in the Los Angeles area with his family by his side.

The actor was diagnosed with colon cancer about four years ago, according to a statement from his family.

Boseman was a mainstay of the Black Panther franchise and also appeared in Avengers and Captain America movies. He also played Black icons Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and James Brown in feature films.

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said in the statement. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more — all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther."

The NAACP paid tribute to the actor on Twitter, praising him for "showing us how to conquer adversity with grace ... for showing us just how powerful we are."

Oscar-winner Matthew A. Cherry, who spent three seasons as a wide receiver on various NFL teams before turning to filmmaking, praised Boseman's strength.

"Chadwick was really out here shooting all of these huge action movies while fighting stage 4 colon cancer. Man. Strong isn’t even the word," Cherry tweeted Friday night.

Writer Roxane Gay said the news was devastating. "My heart goes out to his family," she said on Twitter.

Filmmaker Jordan Peele said the loss of Boseman was a "crushing blow."

Boseman was a native of Anderson, South Carolina, where he attended T.L Hanna High School before graduating in 1995.

His success was no surprise there.

Former assistant principal Sheila Hilton told NBC affiliate WYFF in 2013 Boseman was the "all-around" student, who excelled wherever he applied himself. He performed in school plays, and Hilton said many of his teachers expected him to make it.

Boseman attended Howard University before studying at the British American Drama Academy at Oxford, England, and then moving to Brooklyn to pursue acting.

His skills took him to Hollywood and daytime television ("All My Children") as well as primetime drama ("Third Watch," "ER") before he got a shot at the big screen.

Boseman got a relatively late start in film, landing his first studio lead at age 35 as Jackie Robinson in "42" in 2013.

His next big role was as James Brown in "Get on Up" in 2014. The New Yorker magazine praised his performance as "startling and galvanic."

"The beat is driving, insistent, even ferocious, but Boseman’s movements are liquid," critic David Denby said.

Two years later, Boseman was embedded in Marvel blockbusters as the character T'Challa, first in "Captain America: Civil War," then, of course, in "Black Panther," the 2018 film that at the time became the biggest-grossing superhero movie while surpassing $1 billion box office receipts.

Boseman rode to global fame as Prince T'Challa, the heir to the throne in the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda who faces upheaval as he takes his place as king.

That year he hosted "Saturday Night Live."

At the "MTV Movie & TV Awards" in 2018 Boseman handed his award for best hero to James Shaw Jr., who wrestled an assault-style rifle away from a gunman at a Tennessee Waffle House in April of that year.

"Black Panther" won Academy Awards for best original score, best costume design and best production design categories.

Boseman also played T'Challa in Marvel films "Avengers: Infinity Wars" in 2018 and "Avengers: Endgame" in 2019.

"Black Panthers II" was scheduled for 2022 release.

Marvel Studios on Friday night mourned the loss. "Our hearts are broken and our thoughts are with Chadwick Boseman’s family. Your legacy will live on forever. Rest In Peace," it posted on social media.

Boseman is survived by his wife and a parent. He had no children.