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“A man among men” — Denzel Washington remembers worrying about health of the late Chadwick Boseman

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Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

Denzel Washington remembers Chadwick Boseman in a new Variety feature, calling the late actor “a man among men.” 

Washington’s and Boseman’s paths crossed indirectly even before they finally worked together, when Denzel was a producer on Boseman’s final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Years earlier, the Oscar winner made it possible for a then-unkown Boseman to attend the British American Drama Academy’s prestigious Oxford Summer Program.

In 2019, when Washington was saluted with the American Film Institute Awards’ Lifetime Achievement  honor, Boseman recalled on the podium, “Imagine receiving the letter that your tuition…was paid for and that your benefactor was none other than the dopest actor on the planet.” Washington was moved to tears by the younger actor’s words, which also praised Denzel’s other philanthropic work.

What Washington didn’t know at the time — nor did anyone else other than Boseman’s close friends and family — was that Chadwick was battling the cancer that would eventually take his life in 2020.

Boseman kept working despite his private battle with the illness, logging acclaimed performances in Black Panther, Ma Rainey‘s and other films. 

“He made the movie, and nobody knew. I didn’t know. He never said a peep about it. He just did his job,” Washington tells Variety of Ma Rainey‘s, which many expected to net the actor a posthumous best-actor trophy.

“I wondered if something was wrong because he seemed weak or tired sometimes,” Denzel says. “We had no idea, and it was nobody’s business. Good for him, keeping it to himself.”

Washington’s new directorial effort starring Michael B. JordanA Journal for Jordan, is in theaters now, as is his The Tragedy of Macbeth, which stars fellow Oscar winner Frances McDormand. The latter film comes to Apple TV+ on January 14.

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