In the biggest upset of the night, Chadwick Boseman was robbed of the Best Actor Oscar at the 2021 Academy Awards in favor of Anthony Hopkins.
Entering Sunday’s award’s night, Boseman was the easy frontrunner for the Best Actor category. His role as blues trumpeter Levee Green in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom had already earned him trophies at the Golden Globes (where he became only the second posthumous acting winner, following Peter Finch), the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, the Black Film Critics Circle, the Black Reel Awards, the NAACP Image Awards, and more. But when the final award of the night was announced, it was an absent Hopkins who took it home for The Father.
It’s a shocking upset, and a snubbing that will sadly never have a chance to be corrected. Boseman passed away last summer after secretly battling colon cancer for four years, making his Ma Rainey‘s role the final one of his celebrated and too-short career. It was also the only time he’d ever been nominated for an Academy Award.
Acting Oscars have only been awarded posthumously twice. The first was for Peter Finch’s role in Network in 1976, while Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor for his iconic Joker in The Dark Knight in 2009. Unfortunately, Boseman’s name won’t be added to that page of the history book.
Though it’s a clear surprise, Hopkins win is something as a landmark, as the 83 years old becomes the oldest individual to ever win an Oscar in any category. Many other nominees were expected to have historic wins this year, and most came through in the end. Chloe Zhao became the first Asian woman to win Best Director for Nomadland (which also won Best Picture and Best Actress (Frances McDormand)); Yuh-Jung Youn became the first Korean actress to be nominated, winning for Minari; and Ma Rainey’s hairstylists Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson were the first Black women to ever be nominated for a Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar, an award they took home alongside makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera.
While the Boseman blow will likely be discussed for some time to come, the late actor is still receiving plenty of deserved recognition. At the top of the year, he was besotted with a special Actor’s Tribute at the Gotham Awards, while his hometown of Anderson, South Carolina has plans to erect a statue in his honor.
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