Chadwick Boseman won his first Golden Globe, and it was for a film he never got to see.
Boseman’s widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, accepted the award for best actor in a motion picture drama on behalf of the late actor, who died in August of colon cancer at age 43 — three months before “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” was released.
“He would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you you can,” Simone Ledward said, as she and the audience wiped back tears. “That tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you are meant to be doing at this moment in history.”
Boseman is the first Black winner in the category in nearly 15 years. (Forest Whitaker won at the 2007 ceremony for his performance as Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.”) The honor also makes Boseman the first Black posthumous winner in an acting category.
Reviewing “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” set during a recording session in 1920s Chicago, the New York Times co-chief critic A.O. Scott praised Boseman’s potent performance as “definitive,” and other critics singled it out as the best of Boseman’s career. The film, which Scott named a critic’s pick, was directed by George C. Wolfe and adapted from August Wilson’s play.
The drama tells the story of Rainey, a pioneering blues singer of the title played by Viola Davis (who was nominated for best actress in a movie drama), and her battle to protect her gift — her voice — from exploitation by the white-owned record label. When Boseman’s trumpeter, an ambitious upstart named Levee, wants to play a song his way, a clash of egos ensues.
The film is “a powerful and pungent reminder of the necessity of art, of its sometimes terrible costs and of the preciousness of the people, living and dead, with whom we share it,” Scott said in his review.
Writing for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw described Boseman’s face as “an instrument for every painful emotion.” Bradshaw added, “It is such a generous performance: the portrayal of a man sacrificed on the altar of his own past.”
Boseman, who was told he had Stage 3 colon cancer in 2016, had undergone “countless surgeries” and chemotherapy during filming, but his castmates say he never let on. “It brought tears to my eyes very early on, knowing what I know now,” Colman Domingo, who played another band member, told The Times in December. “I don’t know how he did it.”
This was the first Golden Globe win for the actor, who got a relatively late start in his career before breaking through at age 35 with his first role in a studio film, playing Jackie Robinson in “42” (2013).
He made his name playing one national idol after another in a series of biopics, including James Brown (“Get On Up,” 2014) and Thurgood Marshall (“Marshall,” 2017). But he cemented his stardom with the role of His Majesty of Wakanda himself, T’Challa, in “Black Panther” in 2018.
That Marvel film became a cultural sensation — it was the first major superhero movie with an African protagonist and the first to feature a majority Black cast — as well as one of the highest-grossing films of all time. It was shot in 2017, after Boseman received his diagnosis. (Marvel has said T’Challa will not be recast in the sequel, “Black Panther 2,” slated for release in July 2022.)
At the Globes, Boseman beat out Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”), Gary Oldman (“Mank”) and Tahar Rahim (“The Mauritanian”).
Here is Simone Ledward’s full acceptance speech:
He would thank God. He would thank his parents. He would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifices. He would thank his incredible team: Michael Greene, Azeem Chiba, Nicki Fioravante, Evelyn O’Neill, Chris Huvane, Logan Coles. He would thank his team on set for this film: Deidra Dixon, Sian Richards, Craig Anthony and Andrew Carlone.
He would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you you can, that tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you are meant to be doing at this moment in history. He would thank Mr. George C. Wolfe, Mr. Denzel Washington, lots of people at Netflix. He would thank Ms. Viola Davis, Mr. Glynn Turman, Mr. Michael Potts, Mr. Colman Domingo, Ms. Taylour Paige, Mr. Dusan Brown.
And I don’t have his words. But we have to take all the moments to celebrate those we love, so thank you, H.F.P.A., for this opportunity to do exactly that. And honey, you keep ‘em coming. Thank you.
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