Spike Lee Opens Up About Working With Chadwick Boseman: "I Didn't Know He Was Sick"

Spike Lee Opens Up About Working With Chadwick Boseman: "I Didn't Know He Was Sick"
October 7, 2020 - 17:09 / Amanda Stanford

Iconic film director Spike Lee is recalling what it was like working with the late Chadwick Boseman and shares that the actor kept his cancer diagnosis hidden from everyone on set. In his latest interview, Lee is reflecting on what it was like directing the touching actor. 

While there was never any doubt Chadwick Boseman was an incredible soul, many A-listers and celebs are coming forward with their own stories about the many ways Boseman touched their lives.

Among the many to give the late actor praise is notorious director Spike Lee, who spoke about working with Boseman in his latest film released this past June, Da 5 Bloods.

Spike Lee gives Chadwick Boseman praise

While working on his latest film, Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee said working with Chadwick Boseman was a pleasure, and shared in an exclusive interview with Variety's "New York" issue how hidden Boseman kept his cancer diagnosis.

Chadwick Boseman and Spike Lee attend the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award honouring Denzel Washington.

Lee shared that Boseman was very private about his personal life and that he very rarely brought anything personal on set. 

"I didn’t know Chad was sick," Lee shared. "He did not look well, but my mind never took that he had cancer."

The film, which Lee wrote and directed, follows four Vietnam War veterans who return to Vietnam to search for their fallen squad leader and for the gold they had hidden and buried. Boseman played the fallen soldier, and Lee shared it was an arduous shoot in extreme jungle heat and humidity. 

"It was a very strenuous shoot," Lee said. "I mean, we all didn’t get to Vietnam until the end of the movie at Ho Chi Minh City. But that other stuff, the jungle stuff, was shot in Thailand. It was 100 degrees every day. It was also at that time the worst air pollution in the world," he continued, before sharing he thinks that contributed to Boseman's sickly appearance. 

Lee went on to say that had he known about Boseman's illness, he would have taken it easier on him, which is why he suspects Boseman kept it from him.

"I understand why Chadwick didn’t tell me because he didn’t want me to take it easy," he said. "If I had known, I wouldn’t have made him do the stuff. And I respect him for that."

Spike Lee mourns the incredible loss

Boseman, who passed away on Aug. 28 after an arduous battle with colon cancer, shocked the world when we learned of his passing, and Lee was no exception.

Spike Lee arrives to the BAFTA Tea Party.

"That night, for some reason, I went to bed early. And the fact that I went to bed early, I woke up early. It must have been I was tired. I went to open my phone, and my phone — the whole thing had been blowing up. I turned it off. I was in shock," he said.

Following the passing, Lee said that he re-watched Da 5 Bloods, and says that now it takes on a new meaning for him, particularly the scene in which Boseman is praying to God as he is bathed in light.

"It’s Chadwick standing in that light, in that pose. That was God up there. I don’t care what nobody says," he said. "That was God’s heavenly light because that scene’s not lit. That’s natural light. And that was God sending heavenly light on Chadwick."

Boseman has one more film that will be released posthumously in which he plays an inspiring jazz musician alongside Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which will be released to Netflix later this year.