Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali’s remarkable skills as an athlete in the ring, and his larger than life persona outside it, have led to more than few films about his life. Most notably among the litter is Michael Mann’s Will Smith-starring “Ali,” and of course there is subtly titled “The Greatest,” but as we told you at the start of the month, “The Queen” director Stephen Frears is looking to step into the ring with his own Ali biopic for HBO entitled “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight.”
Now it looks as if he’s starting to piece together his cast, which is set to include Christopher Plummer and Frank Langella, keeping with Frears ability to assemble fantastic ensembles. Plummer may rightfully be picking up his first Oscar for the Mike Mills-directed “Beginners,” while Langella has long been a go-to for great performances. Plummer is set to play Supreme Court Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan II, while Langella will portray Chief Justice Warren Burger, in a film that chronicles Ali’s trial following his arrest for anti-Vietnam sentiments and behavior when drafted to serve in the war. The executive-producing team of Frank Doelger, Tracey Scoffield, Jonathan Cameron and Frears are behind this one, with a script by Shawn Solvo. The search for the film’s Ali is still on.
Mann’s iteration wasn’t a failure by any means, it was just that at a length of 157 minutes and with so much ground to cover in Ali’s life, the movie felt at times overlong and frustratingly superficial. Perhaps since this is capturing one moment of Ali’s life, rather than being a sweeping, Oscar-worthy attempt at embodying Ali’s entire life story, Frears and crew will have a little more success in the end. We wish we could recommend an Ali, but sometimes it’s a major feat to try and nail a personality that large, and we won’t be surprised if it’s an unknown (and perhaps that’s the best way to go).