Born: November 29, 1976;

Died: August 28, 2020.

CHADWICK Boseman, the star of Marvel Studio’s epic film, Black Panther, has lost his life to colon cancer at the age of just 43. The loss to the film industry is immeasurable.

The movie is the fourth highest-grossing film of all time in the US and it brought in $1.3bn worldwide. It is the only Marvel Studios film to receive a best picture Oscar nomination, and in the event it won in three other categories. “Hollywood has never produced a blockbuster this splendidly black,” said Empire magazine.

But the loss of Chadwick Boseman runs way beyond revenue streams and headlines. He became not only a top actor but a symbol of hope, who convinced young black Americans that pulling on a superhero cape, figuratively speaking, was entirely possible.

His own life was something of a superhero struggle, a series of epic battles against the dark forces of poverty, stereotyping and indifference. “You don’t have the same exact experience as a black actor as you do as a white actor. You don’t have the same opportunities,” he said in one rare interview.

Certainly, no-one could have predicted film success for the young boy who grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, his father a textile factory worker and his mother a nurse. But then they would have had no idea that he was as determined as he was talented.

From an early age young Chad was to chronicle the world around him. In high school, for example, he wrote and directed a play, telling of how a classmate was shot and killed.

His obvious creative talent took him to university in Washington to study directing. Such were his skills that on graduation he was sponsored to attend the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, with backing from actor Denzel Washington.

On return to America, Boseman focused on developing a career on stage and film. He studied acting in order to become a better director. He became a successful drama instructor in Brooklyn but in the meantime, acting auditions led to television roles.

Although he was hugely ambitious, he was never prepared to surrender principle. In 2003 he was fired from one daytime soap after arguing that the black characters were heavy with racist stereotypes.

Thankfully, his stance did not derail his career. In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles and continued to land TV work in the likes of hospital drama ER and CSI NY. He maintained his ambition to inform and entertain, continuing to write plays about social injustice (some of which were nominated for awards) and he directed off-Broadway.

Boseman was directing in a tiny theatre in New York when he landed the iconic role of baseball star Jackie Robinson, the first black man to feature in top league baseball, alongside Harrison Ford, in the Brian Helgeland-directed 42 (2013). “Boseman’s performance was what supplied the complexity and texture in itself: seductive and determined,” said one film critic.

Boseman had now captured Hollywood’s eye. He was box office: he was complex, clever and compelling. He had talent and charisma. A year after playing Robinson, Boseman played the soul legend James Brown in Get On Up (2104). And he looked every inch the black hero in Marshall (2107), the tale of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice of the US, who made key rulings against segregation.

But he was not limited to playing heroes and role models. The James Brown biopic, for example, demonstrated that he could be entirely convincing as the deeply flawed, domestic abuser, drug fiend. “There is some good and bad in all of us,” said the actor.

Yet, there’s no doubt Boseman was a real-life hero. He secretly endured chemotherapy and hugely invasive surgery while playing the world’s first black superhero, T’Challa, in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, and later in Black Panther.

Boseman, who once cited such political leaders and musicians as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Marley, Public Enemy and Prince to be major influencers, brought as much dignity to his life as he had his on-screen performance.

He certainly had the chance to elicit public sympathy. During one interview he was asked how he “must have been through the wringer?”, referring to his having had to bulk up to play Panther. Boseman offered a wry smile and said: “Oh, you don’t even know. You have no idea. One day I’ll live to tell the story.”

Chadwick Boseman didn’t live. But what he managed to do was make an incredible mark not on the world of performance but on the expectations of young black people across the world.

His final text was to his Black Panther film producer. Despite being seriously ill he was keen to make contact with deprived young people, via the Make-A-Wish foundation. “We need to do that for them. People deserve abundant life, special moments. They’ve been through hell battling disease.”

Barack Obama believed that Boseman was all about paying back. “Chadwick came to the White House to work with kids when he was playing Jackie Robinson”, he said. “You could tell right away that he was blessed. 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.”

Isn’t that the true definition of a superhero? Certainly, the seven million social media fans who mourned his passing thought so. Among them was Mick Jagger, who tweeted: “It’s so sad to hear of Chadwick Boseman’s passing. He was a wonderful, funny, kind man and a very talented actor. He will be missed by so many.”

A statement from Boseman’s family, posted on Twitter, said that his most famous roles post said that his most famous roles had been “filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy”. The later roles included such films as Da 5 Bloods, directed by Spike Lee, and the forthcoming Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, about 1920s musicians.

Chadwick Boseman is survived by his wife Simone Ledward, a singer, whom he married earlier this year.