Denzel Washington, who once paid for Chadwick Boseman to attend a prestigious theater program at Oxford, remembers the late actor as a "gentle soul" who "lived a full life." During a virtual conversation with Rain Man director Barry Levinson at the Toronto Film Festival on Thursday, Washington recalled growing emotional at the purple carpet premiere for the Ryan Coogler-directed Black Panther. The anticipated Marvel Studios movie, the first to feature a Black lead and a predominantly Black cast, was also the first solo for Boseman's Wakandan warrior T'Challa following the character's breakout role in Captain America: Civil War.
"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," Washington said (via THR) of "gentle soul" Boseman, who died at age 43 in August following a private four-year battle with colon cancer.
Reflecting on the Black Panther premiere, Washington added, "I went backstage and I saw Chad and I saw Ryan Coogler, and then I watched the movie and I remember shedding a tear. Because I thought, man, these young guys are gone. Like they'd taken over."
Washington made similar comments months after the blockbuster success of Black Panther, detailing his encounter with Boseman and Coogler during the film's premiere:
"I was talking with Ryan — Ryan and I talk all the time — he was the one who invited me. So Chad, you know, thanked me," Washington told JOE in 2018. "And I was like, 'For what?' He was like, 'You know, because you [paid for my studies].' I was like, 'Oh, it was you! That's really why I'm here, I want my money [laughs].'"
"Like our story, you never know who you touch and where they might end up," Washington said at the time, adding he's "glad to be — in a very small way — a part of" Boseman's story. In 2019, Boseman helped celebrate Washington when the Training Day and Glory star was honored with the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award.
"There is no Black Panther without Denzel Washington," Boseman said in his speech, above. "Not just because of me, but my whole cast, that generation stands on your shoulders."
Boseman went on to say Washington "built a body of work, characters, movies, moments that defied the limitations of story and success that has historically been available to the Black actor. And amongst all the great male leads of Hollywood history, you measure up as great, if not greater, if not the [greatest of all time]."0comments
"And that would be enough to give," Boseman added, "but I know personally that your generosity extends past what you have given."
Photo credit: Albert L. Ortega for Getty Images, Jordan Strauss for Invision / AP