Chadwick Boseman earns posthumous best actor nomination for ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’

Chadwick Boseman leans against a piano as Levee
Chadwick Boseman as Levee in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
(David Lee / Netflix)

After collecting a Golden Globe nomination, a BAFTA nod and numerous critics awards in the lead-up to the 93rd Academy Awards, Chadwick Boseman earned a posthumous lead actor Oscar nomination Monday morning for Netflix’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” his final feature film performance.

It marks the first Oscar nomination for Boseman, who died in August at the age of 43 after a private battle with cancer.

2021 Oscar nominations: The complete list

March 15, 2021


The 1920s-set musical drama was nominated for five Oscars, including a lead actress nod for Viola Davis, who earned a fourth career nomination for her portrayal of eponymous blues singer Ma Rainey. Davis, who won the best supporting actress Oscar in 2017 for “Fences,” is now the most-nominated Black actress in Academy history.

The film is also up for best production design, makeup and hairstyling and costume design. However, while Academy rules allow for up to 10 best picture contenders to be nominated, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” did not secure a slot in this year’s field of eight best picture nominees.

Boseman was poised to mark another milestone, in the supporting actor category, for his magnetic performance in Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods.” The New York Film Critics Circle named Boseman best supporting actor for his turn in the action drama as “Stormin’” Norman, the leader of a squad of Black American GIs returning to Vietnam decades after the war. If nominated for “Da 5 Bloods,” Boseman would have become the first actor to be nominated for two posthumous honors in the same year.

Instead, the Academy overlooked acclaimed performances by both Boseman and co-star Delroy Lindo, nominating Lee’s film solely for best original score.

The “Black Panther” star shot to global fame as theWakandan King T’Challa in Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise, leading 2018’s Academy Award-winning “Black Panther,” the first comic book superhero movie to be nominated for the best picture Oscar. He also drew acclaim as a captivating performer in biographical films such as “42,” “Get On Up” and “Marshall” and added producer to his credits in 2019 with “21 Bridges,” in which he also starred.

But Boseman garnered some of the strongest raves of his 17-year film and television career for breathing fiery life into the words of celebrated playwright August Wilson as the talented but tormented horn player Levee in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” adapted by Ruben Santiago-Hudson from the play of the same name and directed by George C. Wolfe.

The role has already earned him lead actor honors from the Golden Globes and Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., as well as nominations for the upcoming SAG, BAFTA and Spirit Awards.

Accepting the Golden Globe on his behalf last month, Boseman’s widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, spoke through tears to note, “He would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you, ‘You can,’ that tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you are meant to be doing at this moment in history.”


Wolfe remembered Boseman’s dedication while performing on the Pittsburgh set in the summer of 2019, nearly a year before the actor’s death.

“For every take, every day, it was just glorious work,” said Wolfe. “Not for one second did he hold back, and not for one second did he falter. It was full heart, full craft, full being for every single moment that we were filming.”

Boseman earned a record four SAG Award nominations in film categories this year with individual nominations for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Da 5 Bloods” and as part of the ensemble casts of both films. When “Black Panther” won the SAG Award for outstanding ensemble in 2019, Boseman delivered a memorable and powerful acceptance speech.

Only seven other actors have been nominated posthumously for the Oscar. James Dean was nominated twice, in two different years, for his work in 1955’s “East of Eden” and 1956’s “Giant.” “Network” star Peter Finch won the lead actor award in 1976. Heath Ledger was the most recent actor to notch a posthumous Oscar win, for his supporting turn in 2008’s “The Dark Knight.”

The 2021 Oscars will take place April 25 and will air live on ABC at 5 p.m. Pacific.

Viola Davis is the legendary blues singer opposite Colman Domingo and Glynn Turman in this strong Netflix adaptation of August Wilson’s play.

Nov. 20, 2020