When Chadwick Boseman passed away three months ago, it was a shock to the system. He was an incredibly bright talent who had just become a global icon thanks to Black Panther, and he was snatched away too soon by cancer. While his surprising passing left fans reeling, it also left Marvel with a huge dilemma.
Boseman’s character of King T’Challa was key to the future plans of Marvel boss Kevin Feige, who – like most outside of Boseman’s close family – had not even been aware the actor had been battling this disease. There were strong hints that Black Panther sequels would follow the comics, having T’Challa eventually hand over the Black Panther mantle to his young sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), but that was still years away on the screen.
With the comic book movie studio caught unawares, some rumours have popped up suggesting that Marvel will accelerate that development and use a computer-generated digital double of Boseman to pass the vibranium baton to Shuri in Black Panther 2. Speaking to Argentinian newspaper Clarín though (via Deadline), Black Panther franchise executive producer Victoria Alonso has definitively shot down that CG possibility.
No. There’s only one Chadwick, and he’s no longer with us. Sadly, our king has died in real life, not only in fiction, and we’re taking a little time to see how we continue the story and how to honor this chapter of what has unexpectedly happened to us, so painful and terrible to be honest.
Chadwick wasn’t only a wonderful human being, every day of the 5 years we spent together, but also, I believe, that what he did as a character elevated us as a company, and has left his moment on history.
Since Boseman’s passing in late August, the Marvel family had been completely quiet about what their future plans would be for the Black Panther franchise. But as Alonso explains, it’s simply because they haven’t had enough time to process the tragedy as well as come up with a new plan.
I know that sometimes in productions, 2 or 3 months goes by and we say that too much time has passed. But it’s not too much time. We have to really think about what we’re going to do next and how. And decide how we’re going to honor the franchise.
Marvel owners Disney famously used CGI to duplicate younger versions of the late, beloved Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia in both Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Both of those were for fleeting scenes though. Rogue One did see Disney also digitally resurrect Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin for a lengthy on-screen appearance, but the effect received mixed responses from fans. For both an actor and character as revered and beloved as Boseman’s T’Challa was, this just wouldn’t be acceptable.
So what does Marvel do though? The only other recent precedent was the untimely passing of Paul Walker during the filming of Furious 7. To get around that, the filmmakers used a combination of unused footage from earlier films as well as digitally splicing Walker’s face onto body doubles (actually his two brothers). The results were mixed but it got the desired effect.
Marvel does have the advantage that the character of Black Panther runs around in a full-body costume, which means that while they may not be willing to use a CG double of Boseman, they could use one of Black Panther without ever removing his mask. But what kind of send off would that be? It’s a very tricky situation and I’m glad I’m not the one that has to figure it out.
Last Updated: November 17, 2020