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Benjamin Walker Talks ‘Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,’ Discusses The Wushu Aspects Of The Aborted ‘Paradise Lost’ Adaptation

Benjamin Walker Talks 'Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight,' Discusses The Wushu Aspects Of The Aborted 'Paradise Lost' Adaptation

One of the crucial aspects of this Friday’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” was seeing a fresh face in the lead role, allowing him to become the bloodsucker-loathing President. However, the anonymity of Benjamin Walker, who stars as the axe-swinging badass, isn’t expected to last, with the thesp involved in a number of high-profile projects.

First up is Stephen Frears‘ “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” where Walker will find himself acting alongside archival footage of the legendary boxer. Walker reveals that the film is telling a usually unspoken part of Ali’s history that many biographical stories about the fighter have decided to skip over. “It’s about an aspect of Muhammad Ali’s legacy that a lot of people don’t know about,” he says. “That he was a conscientious objector, and as a black Muslim, he had to fight for his right to [refuse the draft], and it went up to the Supreme Court. Frank Langella and Christopher Plummer play Supreme Court justices, and I play the clerk who tries to make him do the right thing.”

From there it’s back to revisionist history, as the actor is set for Edward Zwick‘s “The Great Wall,” which will shoot next year. Conceived by Legendary Pictures head Thomas Tull and “World War Z” author Max Brooks, details on the film have been kept under wraps, but recently there have been some suggestions that this project, co-starring Henry Cavill, is more than what it seems. While Walker is reticent to share certain details, he did confirm that this is actually a big-budgeted genre picture. “There’s a fantastical element to it, a supernatural element,” he confirms, underlining that there’s a large-scale action aspect to the production. “There’s such a dearth of new ideas. There are very few movies that are trying to do something new. I think this and ‘Abraham Lincoln’ fill that void. People are gonna be pleasantly surprised. If you’re gonna make a big movie like that, you kinda need to blow people’s hair back a little bit. And Ed Zwick is certainly the man to do that.”

Walker was almost seen in another big ticket 2013 release, though it looks like that won’t be happening any longer. Back in February, pre-production ceased on the effects-heavy “Paradise Lost,” leaving Walker stranded after he had signed up to play Michael. “We had already started training, that’s why my hair was so long for that period of time,” he says. Revealing details about the physicality of what, on the surface, seems like a very unusual choice for an adaptation, he reveals a heavy combat-centric approach was being taken. “I was training in wushu, because it was going to largely be a wire-rigged movie,” he says. “There was going to be a lot of flying. We were pretty deep into it.” Because such projects tend to re-awaken at random with much lower budgets, it’s possible that “Paradise Lost” might resurface at a lower cost. Walker sounded game to return, though he wondered if he was actually still contractually obligated to appear. “I have no idea,” he laughed. “I’ll have to call my lawyer, try to figure that out.” But his enthusiasm for the film certainly hasn’t waned. “Alex Proyas is one of the visionary directors that I really admire, so if he wants to do it — if he wants to do anything, I’d be glad to be a part of it.”

Walker has also been linked to Akiva Goldsman‘s ambitious directorial debut “Winter’s Tale,” though as he says it’s not a project with very much traction. When asked if he was officially on board, he responded, “Not as far as I know, they haven’t called me, so who knows? I don’t know what’s going on with that, to be frank with you!” His response suggested that the bigger-budgeted picture was still a victim of executives watching the bottom line, saying, with a shrug, “People are broke these days, so they’re hesitant to pull the trigger.”

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” opens this Friday.

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