Denzel Washington played an essential role in Chadwick Boseman's career, paying for the Black Panther star's acting classes anonymously. During a virtual talk at the Toronto International Film Festival, Washington paid tribute to Boseman, calling him a "gentle soul." Boseman died on Aug. 28 at age 43, following an unpublicized battle with colon cancer.
Washington spoke with director Barry Levinson at the Toronto International Film Festival's Bell Digital Talks Cinema and shared an anecdote about the Black Panther premiere in 2018. "I went to watch the movie, and I remember shedding a tear," Washington said, reports Entertainment Tonight. "I was like, 'Man, these young guys are just goin'!' Like, 'They've taken over!' You know, sooner or later, you're not going make it all the way around the track. You're going to take some time off and watch the young boys run. And watching that movie, that's what I felt like. I'm like, 'Man, they're going.'"
Washington called Boseman a "gentle man" with a "very, very gentle soul." The actor was a "great talent, obviously," Washington said of Boseman. Coincidentally, Washington is an executive producer on Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Boseman's final film, and an adaptation of the August Wilson play. It will be released on Netflix later this ear.
"Who knew he didn't have much life left? But he didn't get cheated. We did," Washington told Levinson. "He didn't get cheated, we did. I pray for his poor wife and his family; they got cheated. But he lived a full life."
When Boseman was a student at Howard University, he was accepted to a summer acting program at Oxford University in London. His teacher, actress Phylicia Rashad, asked Washington to help pay for the group's expenses. Washington did so but did not want the students to know. Boseman shared the story in 2019 when Washington received the AFI Life Achievement Award. During his speech, Boseman said there would be "no Black Panther without Denzel Washington."
Boseman's death came as a shock to everyone in Hollywood since the actor never publicly discussed his colon cancer diagnosis. His family said many of his most recent films were made while he received "countless surgeries and chemotherapy" treatments. "It was the honor of his career to bring King T'Challa to life in Black Panther," his family said. Aside from Black Panther, Boseman was also known for his performances in 42 as Jackie Robinson, Get On Up as James Brown and Marshall as Thurgood Marshall. His last film released in his lifetime was Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods, now available on Netflix.