Spike Lee Says He Understands Why Chadwick Boseman Didn't Tell Him He Was Sick
By Paige Gawley
Quil Lemons for Variety
Spike Lee is reflecting on his time working with Chadwick Boseman on Da 5 Bloods. The 63-year-old director covers the New York issue of Variety, and opens up about not knowing the actor was sick prior to his death. Boseman died in August after a battle with cancer. He was 43.
"I didn’t know Chad was sick. He did not look well, but my mind never took that he had cancer. It was a very strenuous shoot," he says of Da 5 Bloods, which was released on Netflix earlier this year. "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."
"I understand why Chadwick didn’t tell me, because he didn’t want me to take it easy," Lee continues. "If I had known, I wouldn’t have made him do the stuff. And I respect him for that."
While Boseman did go on to star in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom after Da 5 Bloods, Lee speculates that Boseman may have thought the Netflix film would be his last.
"This is conjecture: There’s a possibility he thought this might be his last film. And God gave him one more with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. But now looking at that, he was playing it," he says. "[Boseman's character] Stormin' Norman says, 'If I have to go out, I’m going gangbusters.' And that’s what he did."
Lee first learned of Boseman's death when he woke up early in the morning the day after the news broke.
"I went to open my phone, and my phone -- the whole thing had been blowing up," he recalls. "I turned it off. I was in shock."
In honor of Boseman's life and work, Lee and his wife, Tonya, recently watched Da 5 Bloods again, something the director admits was "hard" to do and "a whole 'nother experience."
"It plays totally different. He’s a ghost already," Lee says of Boseman, before sharing one scene in the film that stood out following the actor's death.
"Delroy [Lindo]’s talking to the camera, talking about his conversation with God. We go up, and we come down and we find this heavenly light. It’s Chadwick standing in that light, in that pose. That was God up there," Lee says. "I don’t care what nobody says. 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."
"... There’s a line in the movie where Clarke [Peters] says he’s the best damn soldier ever. And Chadwick was -- is -- a soldier," Lee adds.
"My wife asked me what Chadwick was like, you know? And I was really excited to work with him. I said, 'Well, I think he's a little bit precious,'" Peters said during an appearance on Good Morning Britain. "And she said, 'Why?' I said, 'Because he's surrounded by people who are fawning over him. He's got a Chinese practitioner who's massaging his back when he walks off set. He's got a makeup lady who's massaging his feet. His girlfriend is there holding his hand.' And I'm thinking, 'Well, maybe the Black Panther thing went to his head.'"
"I regret even having those thoughts, because they were really looking out for him," he added.