Chadwick Boseman, who played Black icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown before finding fame as Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe, died on Friday of cancer. He was 43.
Boseman died at his home in the Los Angeles area with his wife and family by his side, his publicist Nicki Fioravante told The Associated Press news agency.
Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family said in a statement.
“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.
“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.”
Boseman had not spoken publicly about his diagnosis. He is survived by his wife and a parent and had no children, Fioravante said.
Born in South Carolina, Boseman graduated from Howard University and had small roles in television before his first star turn in 2013. His striking portrayal of the stoic baseball star Robinson opposite Harrison Ford in 2013′s 42 drew attention in Hollywood and made him a star.
A year later, he wowed audiences as Brown in the biopic Get On Up.
His T’Challa character was first introduced to the blockbuster Marvel movies in 2016′s Captain America: Civil War, and his Wakanda Forever salute reverberated around the world after the release of Black Panther two years ago.
Black Panther, the first major studio superhero movie featuring a predominantly African American cast, went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of the year and was nominated for six Oscars, including best picture.
It won three Academy Awards – in the best original score, best costume design and best production design categories.
The news of Boseman’s death prompted an outpouring of grief on social media.
“This is a crushing blow,” actor and director Jordan Peele said on Twitter.
“This broke me,” said actor and writer Issa Rae.
Captain America actor Chris Evans called Boseman “a true original. He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist. He had so much amazing work still left to create.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted that Boseman “inspired generations and showed them they can be anything they want – even super heroes”.
Boseman’s Marvel co-star Mark Ruffalo tweeted: “Brother, you were one of the all time greats and your greatness was only beginning. Lord love ya. Rest in power, King.”
Leading US civil rights organisation the NAACP praised Boseman for “showing us how to conquer adversity with grace” and “to walk as a King, without losing the common touch”.
“#RestInPower #BlackPantherForever,” its tweet concluded.