If there is one thing about Stephen Frears, he doesn’t usually let too much time pass before he’s on to the next project. And barely a week after his latest film “Lay The Favorite” premiered at Sundance, it looks like he may be on to something new. And now, it’s not the developing remake of “The Hit” or “The Bengali Detective.” Instead, it’s “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight” and it’s gearing up at HBO.
The folks over at Shadow & Act first got wind of the project, and have learned that casting is underway. The film seems to be moving under the radar, but when is known thus far is that it has a script from Shawn Slovo (“Catch A Fire,” “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin“) and Scott Ferguson ( past HBO successes “You Don’t Know Jack,” “Temple Grandin,” “Recount“) is one of the producers according to Montana Artists Agency. So what’s it all about?
The film will center on highly publicized moment in the fighter’s career, set in 1967 in the midst of the Vietnam War when Muhammad Ali refused to enlist and go fight for his country. “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” is just one of a handful of provocative statements he made at the time. Not surprisingly, authorities were not impressed and sentenced him to a stint in jail, but Ali fought the conviction and it went all the way to the Supreme Court where the charges were reversed. Amidst all of this, the tide was shifting in the country against the war and Ali found a sea of supporters around him.
It’s a great subject for a movie and during a panel discussion at Sundance (attended by Miss N-Tertainment), Frears explained, “being an Englishman in America, you find a lot of these small corners to explore that are exotic.” No word on who exactly is being sought to play Ali, but it’s a tough role to fill. Will Smith famously took it on in Michael Mann‘s “Ali” and earned himself an Oscar nomination for his efforts.
Hopefully some more details will surface soon, but this is definitely promising and well, you already know how we feel about the awesomeness of HBO and their dedication to shepherding quality material.