With his mass critical success “Room” looking like it’s going to take him all the way to the Oscars, Lenny Abrahamson has announced his follow-up: A movie about the life of Emile Griffith.
Teaming with “Room” producer Ed Guiney and Film4, Abrahamson has optioned the Donald McRae book “A Man’s World: The Double Life Of Emile Griffith.”
He’s the boxer who won world titles in two weight classes but is best
remembered for beating to death Benny “The Kid” Paret in the ring during
a live nationwide TV broadcast. The vicious incident occurred after
Paret grabbed the buttock of his opponent and called him a homosexual at
the weigh-in. Fact is, Griffith led a secret life as a bisexual man,
but in 1962, such a thing was taboo and most especially in the macho
culture of boxing.
When [Paret and Griffith] fought in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis hung in the backdrop, but
the real tension between the fighters didn’t really come out until
later. The brawl was broadcast live on ABC’s Friday Night Fights.
Even though many felt in hindsight that Paret should not have been
permitted back in the ring so fast after absorbing a beating in his
previous fight, the match was close, until the 12th round. Paret slumped
against the ropes, and by the time Griffith was done and the ref
finally stepped in, Paret was hit by a reported 24 unanswered blows.
Paret slumped to the canvas and never regained consciousness; he died
after 10 days in a coma.
Griffith, and boxing, were vilified. Griffith would continue
fighting, but was never quite the same. Late in his life, he was beaten
by five teens with one baseball bat while coming out of a gay club. He
died several years ago of dementia. The film is the collision of a
sweet-natured man, a macho sport and a repressive period.
look at how closely his two worlds intersected,” Abrahamson said to Deadline. “Just
how different are they, when the sport is such a celebration of the
male body and the beauty of its athleticism. Go one step further, and
inject the tiniest sense of sexuality, and people are up in arms.
Griffith himself once said a quote that just floored me. ‘They forgave
me for killing a man, but they couldn’t forgive me for loving a man.’
That to me was so powerful and such a crazy contradiction. And it is
still relevant today.”