In a new cover story with Variety, director Spike Lee talked about working with Chadwick Boseman on “Da 5 Bloods.” The Vietnam war drama, which came out on Netflix over the summer, would be one of the last roles for the 43-year-old actor, who died in August from colon cancer.
“I didn’t know Chad was sick,” Lee said. “He did not look well, but my mind never took that he had cancer. It was a very strenuous shoot. 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. If I had known, I wouldn’t have made him do the stuff. And I respect him for that.”
Lee recalled how he heard about Boseman’s death in August. “That night, for some reason, I went to bed early,” Lee said. “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 recently rewatched “Da 5 Bloods,” and he thought he movie played differently, particularly a scene at the end where Boseman’s character, “Stormin'” Norman Earl Holloway, is bathed in a heavenly white line. “I felt it when we shot it,” Lee said. “It was God’s heavenly light. We didn’t have light. You know, Delroy [Lindo] is 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. 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.”
Lee added: “There’s a line in the movie where Clarke [Peters] says he’s the best damn soldier ever. And Chadwick was — is — a soldier. 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. Stormin’ Norman says, ‘If I have to go out, I’m going gangbusters.’ And that’s what he did.”