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Denzel Washington ‘Wondered’ If Something Was Wrong with Chadwick Boseman’s Health During the Filming of ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’

Denzel Washington recently spoke with Variety about his upcoming film, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and the Oscar buzz surrounding his performance as Lord Macbeth. The legendary actor also spoke about working with late actor Chadwick Boseman on his last film, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Boseman died in 2020 from colon cancer at the age of 43. Washington told the outlet that he sometimes wondered if something was wrong with Boseman’s health while on the set of the film, which Washington produced.

Denzel Washington (L) talks Chadwick Boseman (R). Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images, Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Washington noted that the actor kept his diagnosis under wraps as he battled the disease for four years. “A man among men,” said Washington. “He suffered quietly. He made the movie, and nobody knew. I didn’t know. He never said a peep about it.”

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

Critics are praising Washington for his portrayal of the tragic king in Joel Coen’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Academy Award-winning actress Frances McDormand stars with Washington in the film as Lady Macbeth.

Washington is already creating Oscar buzz for his performance in the film, and if he is nominated for an Academy Award, he will make history by joining actors Laurence Olivier and Spencer Tracy as the only actors nominated for nine Oscars. Washington already made history as the only Black performer to win two Academy Awards in acting categories. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Glory” and a Best Actor Oscar for “Training Day.”

Washington recalled meeting with Cohen after he learned the director wanted him in the lead role. The legendary actor said that when he met with Coen about the role, he was curious about how the director would film the picture and recalled the conversation.

” ‘Let’s talk about the black and white of it all,’ ” said Washington, to which Coen replied, ” ‘Well, you’re Black …,’ ” before the actor interjected “‘ No, no, no. I’m talking about you shooting in black and white,’ ” laughed Washington. “So that’s where my head was at.”

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” will stream on Apple TV+ on Jan. 14, 2022, and is currently available in theaters in select cities.


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