Spike Lee’s incendiary war drama Da 5 Bloods is one of the best movies of 2020, and should find itself in awards season contention when the industry starts handing out prizes early next year. Based on the critical consensus, it could realistically be in the running for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, although Delroy Lindo’s phenomenal career-best performance looks to be the most likely to walk away victorious.
Of course, the movie also marks the penultimate live-action appearance of Chadwick Boseman, who passed away following a privately-fought battle with colon cancer roughly two months after Da 5 Bloods debuted on Netflix. Although the Black Panther star only played a supporting role in a handful of scenes, his character was the single most important driving force behind the narrative.
In a recent interview, Lee opened up about Boseman’s death and admitted that while he had no idea he was battling the disease that would soon take his life, he did think that the actor wasn’t feeling like himself, although the filmmaker thought it was simply down to the difficult shooting conditions.
“I didn’t know Chad was sick. He did not look well, but my mind never took that he had cancer. It was a very strenuous shoot. I mean, we all didn’t get to Vietnam until the end of the movie at Ho Chi Minh City. But that other stuff, the jungle stuff, was shot in Thailand. It was 100 degrees every day. It was also at that time the worst air pollution in the world. I understand why Chadwick didn’t tell me because he didn’t want me to take it easy. If I had known, I wouldn’t have made him do the stuff. And I respect him for that.”
Boseman’s part in Da 5 Bloods is even more poignant and bittersweet following his tragic passing, as his character Stormin’ Norman is only seen during flashbacks before appearing as a vision to Lindo’s Paul during the third act, and Lee admits that the scene has become that much more powerful in retrospect.
“Most recently, with my lovely wife, Tonya, we watched it again for the first time after his transition. And it plays totally different. He’s a ghost already. You know the scene I’m talking about? It’s the scene where he comes back, him and Delroy. I felt it when we shot it.”
Chadwick Boseman’s final screen credits will see him star in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and voice the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s T’Challa in animated series What If…?, and combined with Da 5 Bloods, those two movies and one TV show demonstrate the length and breadth of his undoubted talents.