Former US president Barack Obama is among those to have paid tribute to “blessed” actor Chadwick Boseman, who has died aged 43 after a battle with cancer.
In an announcement that stunned Hollywood, the family of Boseman – best known for playing Marvel superhero Black Panther – said he had been diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago.
He died at home surrounded by his loved ones, including wife Taylor Simone Ledward, his family said.
He never discussed the illness publicly and films including Black Panther, Da 5 Bloods and Avengers: Endgame were all filmed “during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy”, they added.
Retweeting a post by Boseman which included a picture of the pair talking, Mr Obama recalled meeting the actor when he visited the White House to work with children while he was starring in 2013 film 42.
“You could tell right away that he was blessed,” the former president tweeted.
“To be young, gifted, and Black; to use that power to give them heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain – what a use of his years.”
Marvel chief Kevin Feige, who cast him as Black Panther, said his death was “absolutely devastating”, while Get Out filmmaker Jordan Peele said it was a “crushing blow”.
Boseman was cast as superhero T’Challa, the king of African nation Wakanda, in 2014, and made his debut as the character in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
The release of Black Panther in 2018, two years after Boseman was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer, was a landmark moment for representation in Hollywood.
Both the film and Boseman’s portrayal of the titular superhero achieved universal acclaim as well as huge success at the box office.
It grossed more than 1.3 billion dollars worldwide (about £974 million) and earned an Academy Award best picture nomination, the first superhero movie to do so.
It also sparked a worldwide celebration of African culture, with the character’s famous “Wakanda Forever” salute inspiring millions of people to feel an added sense of pride in their African heritage.
A sequel, Black Panther 2, had been set for release in 2022, but it is unclear what will now happen with the film.
Born in South Carolina, Boseman originally wanted to become a writer and director, graduating from Howard University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing.
After moving to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career, Boseman’s breakthrough role came in 42, in which he starred as baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson.
Boseman again assumed the role of a revered African American figure when he starred as soul singer James Brown in the 2014 film Get on Up.
His most recent film was Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, which arrived in June. He played a US soldier killed in action during the Vietnam War and was widely lauded for the performance.
Boseman is set to make a posthumous appearance alongside Viola Davis in upcoming drama film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Announcing his death, the family said: “It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman. It was the honour of his life to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”
In his tribute, Feige, the mastermind behind the extraordinarily successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, said: “Chadwick’s passing is absolutely devastating. He was our T’Challa, our Black Panther, and our dear friend. Each time he stepped on set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared on screen, he created something truly indelible.
“He embodied a lot of amazing people in his work, and nobody was better at bringing great men to life. He was as smart and kind and powerful and strong as any person he portrayed. Now he takes his place alongside them as an icon for the ages. The Marvel Studios family deeply mourns his loss, and we are grieving tonight with his family.”
British actor Martin Freeman also starred in Black Panther, and said he is “absolutely shocked” by Boseman’s death.
He said: “Chadwick was thoughtful, watchful, and totally committed in his work. A boyish grin and a contagious laugh.
“To still do what he did, when he must have been going through some terrible physical and emotional pain, is testament to the man.
“My heartfelt condolences to his family and those he loved. Rest in Peace brother.”
And Andy Serkis, who also starred alongside Boseman in Black Panther, wrote on Instagram: “It is inconceivable to think you are no longer with us Chad. This world needs you, now perhaps more than ever”, before adding “#wakandaforever”.
Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, praised Boseman’s impact, saying his portrayal of Black Panther “inspired generations”. His running mate, Kamala Harris, also paid tribute.
Boseman’s final tweet was a picture of himself alongside Harris, congratulating her on the nomination.
In her tribute, Harris said: “Heartbroken. My friend and fellow Bison Chadwick Boseman was brilliant, kind, learned, and humble. He left too early but his life made a difference. Sending my sincere condolences to his family.”