In the three months since Chadwick Boseman died after a silent years-long battle with cancer, tributes have rolled in from all over the world to celebrate and honor his work both onscreen and off. They tend to highlight the actor’s brilliant cinematic achievements portraying kings, history-makers, and soldiers — in a word, heroes.
But Boseman’s life behind the scenes found him inhabiting the role of an everyday hero as well, visiting children with cancer and returning the Wakanda salute to fans in public.
Both of these aspects are what his Marvel Cinematic Universe co-stars Don Cheadle and Robert Downey, Jr., spoke to when they presented Boseman with the posthumous Hero for the Ages honor at the MTV Movie & TV Awards: Greatest of All Time special on Sunday night (December 6).
“Mr. Boseman truly embodied what it meant to be a superhero,” Downey said from against a black backdrop. “And he wasn’t just a hero onscreen. His list of selfless and inspirational acts and deeds is too long to recount here, consistently showing up during trial and triumph for family, friends, and fans alike, some of whom were battling the same invisible enemy. He was the most heroic when just being Chad.”
“Each time he stepped on the set, he inspired and influenced there,” Cheadle, sporting a black leather jacket emblazoned with a Black Panther patch, added. “He had an incredible power to unify people in their love for his work and their respect for him as a person. The way he lived his life united people behind a higher purpose, and that will be his legacy.”
The remarks from Downey (Iron Man) and Cheadle (War Machine) spoke broadly to their own personal experiences with Boseman as well as what his commitment to his craft — and his willingness to live his heroism — meant to the world at large.
“The second you first saw him onscreen or had the opportunity to meet him in person, his energy and intensity was undeniable,” Downey said. “There was something different and special about Chadwick Boseman.”
“He brought humanity and truth to the portrayal of people who felt larger than life, and he did it in a way that honored their memories,” Cheadle said, shouting out Boseman’s biopic roles as Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall. “We are both so proud to be part of this award, recognizing him, the greatest of all time, our hero for the ages, Chadwick Boseman.”
Boseman also led the Black Panther crew that cleaned up at the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards, winning Best Movie, Best Performance in a Movie, and Best Hero. During his acceptance speech for the latter, he honored James Shaw Jr., who disarmed and fought off a gunman at a Tennessee Waffle House and saved lives. “This is gonna live at your house,” Boseman told Shaw, passing along the Golden Popcorn.
MTV’s GOAT show also honored and celebrated the biggest moments in movies and television from the ’80s until now — and speaking of superheroes, Gal Gadot presented an exclusive advance clip of her latest DC blockbuster, Wonder Woman 1984, hitting theaters (and HBO Max) on December 25.
For more from the Movie & TV Awards: Greatest of All Time, check out the highlights right here.