Outside his immediate family, very few people knew Chadwick Boseman had cancer. No fans knew and no filmmakers knew. Including Marvel boss Kevin Feige. And no one–reportedly not even Boseman himself–thought the Black Panther would lose that battle.
For four years the man who brought King T’Challa off the comic book page and onto the big screen fought his battle in secret. According to The Hollywood Reporter, though Boseman had become significantly thinner, he was still convinced he was going to beat his colon cancer and was set to not only gain weight back for Black Panther 2 but also begin work on another film project beginning in September.
Boseman’s producing partner Logan Coles, longtime agent Michael Greene, trainer Addison Henderson, and director on 42 Brian Helgeland were among only a handful of non-family members who knew of his condition.
Now, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios are not only grieving the loss of a friend and colleague, but they are also faced with a very sudden disruption to their plans, and a financial “ripple effect” as Boseman’s King T’Challa was scheduled to appear in more interconnected movies across Marvel’s expanding cinematic universe.
“Big studios don’t often [get] completion bonds,” says film finance attorney Schuyler Moore. “They are more prevalent in the indie filmmaking world. Sometimes, the big studios will look to insure for a particular actor, but they usually have a particular reason for doing so. Otherwise, studios will just shoulder the risk [of sickness or death].”
But this is not the first time the Walt Disney Company has dealt with the sudden death of an actor mid-filming. When Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016, Lucasfilm also had to decide how they were going to handle her character, Princess Leia. Having completed her filming for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, it came down to what they were going to do for Leia in the final film of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker.
At first, director JJ Abrams said they were not going to include Leia at all. Such sudden recasting of one of the most popular characters in recent memory was completely out of the question and there was distaste for using CGI. But they found a way to give the beloved deceased actress one last role.
“We assembled this enormous matrix of everything that she ever said, and [co-writer] Chris Terrio essentially went through the footage and wrote her scenes based around the lines that were available,” explained VFX supervisor Roger Guyett of Industrial Light & Magic to THR in January.
Black Panther 2 was scheduled to go into production in March. Like Leia’s role in The Rise of Skywalker, production will begin without the actor. Disney and Marvel can, of course, recast T’Challa. But many fans across social media agree that T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) should become the new Black Panther. Not just because they don’t believe there can be another King T’Challa, but because that plot development also aligns with the original Marvel Comics.
But as of right now, Disney is focused on processing their grief and paying proper tribute to Boseman rather than sorting out the new casting and logistical tragedy of making the Black Panther sequel.
“I haven’t grieved a loss this acute before,” said Black Panther director Ryan Coogler. “I spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see. It leaves me broken knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take.”
We at Inside the Magic will be monitoring this story and we will update our readers as more information on Marvel’s Black Panther franchise comes to light.
How do you think Marvel and Disney should approach Black Panther going forward? Let us know in the comments!