Chadwick Boseman was officially nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards this year for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Along with the announcement marking Boseman’s first-ever Oscar nomination, this also makes the late actor the seventh performer to be posthumously nominated in either the Best Actor or Supporting Actor categories in Academy Award history.
In the past, Peter Finch posthumously won the Best Actor award for his role in the 1976 movie Network. The Dark Knight star Heath Ledger also posthumously won Best Supporting Actor for his memorable performance as the Joker. Finch had previously been nominated for Sunday Bloody Sunday while Ledger was up for Brokeback Mountain, but neither had took in the win on those occasions.
Hollywood legend James Dean was also nominated twice for Best Actor following his death in 1955, with one for East of Eden and another for Giant. Two-time Oscar winner Spencer Tracy was later nominated for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner after his death in 1967. The other posthumously Oscars nominated actors include Ralph Richardson for Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Massimo Troisi for Il Postino.
Boseman died after a four-year battle with colon cancer in August of last year. At the time, the news was a tremendous shock as Boseman had kept his illness private. He had been so optimistic about beating the disease that he had even signed on to appear in Black Panther 2. The first Black Panther had made Boseman an international superstar, though while it earned him award recognition elsewhere, he wasn’t up for any Oscars based on that movie.
Many would say that Boseman’s Oscar nomination has been a long time coming. He has also been celebrated for acclaimed performances in other movies like 42, Get on Up, and Marshall, any of which should have also put him in the Oscar conversation.
Directed by George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom stars Viola Davis as blues singer Ma Rainey with Boseman co-starring as band member Levee Green. A universally-praised movie, it’s up for five awards at the Oscars, including Best Actress for Davis alongside Best Actor for Boseman. The American Film Institute also named Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom as one of the top ten movies of 2020.
For the same role, Chadwick Boseman also won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama last month. At the time, the actor’s widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, accepted the award on his behalf. In her acceptance speech, Taylor said of Chadwick: “He would thank God. He would thank his parents. He would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifices. He would say something beautiful. Something inspiring.”
Additionally, Boseman won the Best Actor award at the Critics’ Choice Awards earlier this month. Based on this trajectory, it would seem that his odds are very high of winning the prestigious Oscar at the Academy Awards this year as well. We can see who wins when the Oscars air starting at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT on April 25, 2021, on ABC and ABC.com.