Late Actor Chadwick Boseman Who Died from Colon Cancer Was Favored to Win the Oscar But Lost to Anthony Hopkins; He’s Still a Hero

Published Apr 26, 2021

Marisa Sullivan

Still a Winner

  • The late Chadwick Boseman was favored to win his first Academy Award posthumously for his work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but lost to veteran actor Anthony Hopkins, who acknowledged the actor in a brief speech via his Instagram.
  • Boseman lost his battle with colon cancer in August at 43 years old, then dominated award season after his death.
  • Leading experts tell SurvivorNet how important it is to prioritize screenings for colon cancer, especially in the Black commmunity.

The late Chadwick Boseman was favored to posthumously win his first Academy Award after sweeping the best actor race through awards season,  but Anthony Hopkins pulled off the upset, winning for his role in The Father.

The 83-year-old actor, who was not present at the ceremony and did not give an acceptance speech until early Monday morning via Instagram, acknowledged Boseman in a humble acknowledgement of his win.

“I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early,” Hopkins said from a picturesque backdrop in his native Wales. “I really did not expect this, so I feel very privileged and honored.”



Regardless of the Oscar upset, Boseman left a major legacy, winning the Golden Globe, Critic’s Choice Award, NAACP Image Award and SAG Award posthumously for his role of Levee in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.  And each step of the way, his brave widow, Tonya Simone Ledward, accepted on his behalf, praising Boseman for his fearless battle and urging fans to take screening for colon cancer seriously.

Ma Rainey co-star Viola Davis told E! host Giuliana Rancic on the red carpet ahead of the Oscars that Boseman was “authenticity on steroids.”

“Sometimes people honor people who actually were not really nice, or the persona did not match the real person,” she said. “This, it matches the person. I’m telling you: This person, this human being, this artist did not mistake his presence for the event. He absolutely honored the work.”

Boseman was honored in the telecast’s “In Memoriam” segment along with the late Kelly Preston who died from breast cancer.

Related: Chadwick Boseman’s Wife Tearfully Accepts Posthumous Golden Globe Award With Powerful Tribute That Speaks to Cancer Fighters

Boseman’s story is both tragic and beautiful, given what has come out of his artistry and devotion to his craft.

Although he lost his life at 43 after his quiet battle with colon cancer, the recognition he’s gained for his work has helped catapult colon cancer awareness to the forefront.

Related: ‘You Don’t Have Any Time To Waste’: Chadwick Boseman’s Widow Makes Emotional Plea to Black Community to Get Screened for Colon Cancer

“Chadwick Boseman has had a profound impact on those that are going to need screening for colorectal cancer, those that have already been diagnosed, he brought this to the forefront,” Colorectal Cancer Alliance CEO Michael Sapienza told SurvivorNet when Boseman received his Oscar nomination. “He was obviously an icon, loved and adored as an artist. And hopefully this will help health and equality, this will help drive down the screening age for colorectal cancer and get more people screened.”

Boseman’s Passion for Acting

Filming Ma Rainey meant so much to Boseman, who toughed out filming while privately battling colon cancer. Boseman did not let cancer take away his passion, which was to work on this film with producer Denzel Washington.

Considered a real-life superhero for his leading man status in the award-winning global box office hit Black Panther, Boseman stunned fans worldwide when he died, seemingly without warning, but he had been battling the disease for four years, according to his family.

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said in a statement when he died. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more – all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”



Boseman grew up in South Carolina and graduated from Howard University with a fine arts degree. His work in 2013′s 42 garnered Hollywood’s attention. And just eight years later, he’s an Oscar winner.

Actor and director Phylicia Rashad (aka Mrs. Huxtable from The Cosby Show), taught Boseman at Howard University and spoke about their relationship in Netflix’s Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist.  She described him as “this lanky young man with a gentle face and a gentle smile, eyes big and wide open wanting to take everything in, wanting all there was to know about theatre.”

An Important Message For the Black Community

Experts say that anyone over 45 should be screened for colon cancer, and there has been more focus on encouraging Black Americans to get checked due to alarming numbers.

Colorectal cancer (which is bowel cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer) unfortunately hits the Black community harder, with Black Americans 20% more likely to get the disease and 40% more likely to die from it than most other groups.

Dr. Karen Winkfield, radiation oncologist at Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance in Nashville, Tenn., expands on this crucial topic with SurvivorNet.

“One of the things that is happening in our communities, particularly in the Black communities—we have people who are dying of cancer who shouldn’t be,” Dr. Winkfield says.

Related: Black Americans Don’t Get Screened or Treated for Lung Cancer at Same Rates as White Americans: Here’s Why, & What We Can Do About It

“It’s really important to make sure that we are taking care of our own health and our own bodies,” she emphasizes, pointing out that many people may not even have a primary care doctor. “That’s the one thing we have control over. It’s really important to prioritize our screening.

Related: ABC’s Robin Roberts Honors Her ‘Tuskegee Airmen’ Dad– Did You Know The Syphilis Experiment on These Men Still Creates Huge Mistrust For Black Americans & The Medical System?

Black communities face discrimination in medicine. “If you don’t like what they’re saying, and you don’t like how they’re saying it to you, you can get another doctor,” Dr. Winkfield urges. “That’s the beautiful thing about being here in the United States, is that you have options. And I think it’s really important, if you are feeling as if the doctor is not trustworthy, or you don’t feel like they have your best interests at heart, please get a second opinion.”

Black Americans Need to Prioritize Cancer Screenings

Getting Screened for Colon Cancer

It is important to get screened for colon cancer even if you have no family history.  The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45.

Symptoms of colon cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, include:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by having one
  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • Blood in the stool, which might make it look dark brown or black
  • Cramping or abdominal pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Losing weight without trying

Dr. Heather Yeo, a colorectal surgeon at Weill-Cornell Medical Center, discusses the top two myths associated with colon cancer and getting checked, and sets the facts straight with SurvivorNet:

Myth #1: Colonoscopies are the only way to detect colon cancer.

The verdict: Not true. Though colonoscopies are the best way, there are a lot of other methods — like fecal occult blood tests (which look at a sample of your stool) and fecal immunochemical tests (FIT). “The [tests] have different roles and you should talk to a medical provider about what’s best for you, but there are a lot of options,” Dr. Yeo says.

Myth #2: Only people with a family history can get colon cancer.

The verdict: Not true. “In fact, the majority of people who get colon cancer have no family history,” Dr. Yeo says. “The reason I do the specialty is because if we screen patients early, cancers can be prevented. We can have really good survival outcomes and so I tell that to a lot of my patients. It’s important to have a positive outlook for that.”

Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.