'Da Five Bloods': Spike Lee reveals he had no idea Chadwick Boseman was ill during 'strenuous' shoot

The 'Black Panther' actor died of colon cancer just months after the war drama was released

Spike Lee, left, worked with Chadwick Boseman on 2020's 'Da Five Bloods'. AFP
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Spike Lee has admitted he did not know Chadwick Boseman was battling cancer while shooting Da Five Bloods, revealing he would have made changes for the actor if he had known.

The Black Panther star, who died of colon cancer in August at the age of 43, shot the war drama last year, while in the midst of his fight with the disease.

The film, which also stars Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors and Clarke Peters, was released on Netflix in June, just months before Boseman's untimely passing.

The actor's death stunned Hollywood, as he had kept his health struggles a secret from colleagues and fans alike.

Among them was director Lee, 63, who helmed Da Five Bloods.

"I didn't know Chad was sick," the director told Variety in a new interview. "He did not look well, but my mind never took that he had cancer."

The filmmaker described the making of the film as "strenuous", with scenes shot amid soaring temperatures in Vietnam and Thailand.

"We all didn’t get to Vietnam until the end of the movie at Ho Chi Minh City," said Lee. "But that other stuff, the jungle stuff, was shot in Thailand. It was 100 degrees (37.7°C) every day. It was also, at that time, the worst air pollution in the world."

The director said he admired Boseman, however, for not disclosing his cancer diagnosis, which had first been given to the actor in 2016.

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

The Oscar-winning director first heard of Boseman's death the morning the actor's family announced it via social media.

At the time, he posted a stirring tribute to the star, and his performance in Da Five Bloods.

"Chadwick, a trooper, never complained. He was there every single minute in the moment. And his performance is a testament to what he put into that role, and all his roles," Lee wrote on social media.

Boseman's last role is in George C Wolfe's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which is scheduled to be released posthumously in December.