Disney weighs how to move forward with ‘Black Panther’ without Chadwick Boseman

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Boseman's proposed memorial in Anderson, South Carolina, would replace a Confederate statue that went up in 1902.

Colleagues and friends of actor Chadwick Boseman have expressed sorrow and uncertainty after learning of his death from colon cancer Aug. 28.

Sources with Disney, the parent company that produces “Black Panther,” say as crew members behind the epic film grieve, they also grapple with how to move forward with the much-anticipated sequel.

The 43-year-old star was reportedly convinced until the end of his life that his prognosis would reverse, so he could gain weight and return to his role as T’Challa, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Because neither Disney executives nor director Ryan Coogler knew about his health challenges, they, too, were confident Boseman and other stars including Michael B. Jordan, Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o would be ready to shoot next March.

The news had not only Hollywood but also the whole world grieving. The regal actor not only embodied the majesty of “Black Panther” but also portrayed the legendary onscreen personas of James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall.

ExploreChadwick Boseman filmed key roles in Atlanta and Georgia

“I’m absolutely devastated. This is beyond heartbreaking,” Chris Evans, who costarred in “Avengers: Endgame” and “Captain America: Civil War” with Boseman, wrote on his Twitter last Friday. “Chadwick was special. A true original. He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist. He had so much amazing work still left to create. I’m endlessly grateful for our friendship. Rest in power, King.”

Disney sources told The Hollywood Reporter this week that preparation for the film was to begin this month. With losing the marquee actor in the sequel to the film, questions linger about how the production will move forward.

What could happen now?

This is not the first time a major production company was struck by tragedy prior to or in the midst of filming. Disney faced the sudden death of Carrie Fisher before 2016′s “Rogue One” was to finish filming. In 2013, Universal faced losing leading star Paul Walker at age 40 as it prepared for the next installment of “Fast & Furious.” In those cases, the franchises were able to survive and thrive beyond those stars’ life spans.

Insiders say Disney is faced with two options to replace the role Boseman made ubiquitous. One option is to replace Boseman, but many fear that change would be jolting for fans and lead to public outcry. The film is set to be released in 2022, so it would be a challenge to handpick an actor, and some might shy away from attempting to fill Boseman’s shoes.

The second option, which is considered to be more feasible, is allowing Wright, who plays T’Challa’s sister Shuri, to become the new Black Panther. That scenario has actually played out in one of the comic series based on the “Black Panther.”

The decision will be a tough one, but Coogler and others are coping with the fact that Boseman will not be in the signature role.

“I spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see. It leaves me broken knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take.”

Those hoping to see Boseman’s face on the big screen again can catch his film “42″ in AMC theaters this weekend at more than 740 locations. His film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” based off the August Wilson play, will air later this year on Netflix.