With the buzz continuing to build for Toronto International Film Festival People’s Choice Award winner “Room,” director Lenny Abrahamson is using that momentum to get his next gigs going. In September he signed up to direct “The Little Stranger,” reteaming him with “Frank” star Domhnall Gleeson. And now he’s got a fascinating, true story pugilist picture brewing.
The filmmaker will helm an adaptation of Donald McRae’s book “A Man’s World: The Double Life Of Emile Griffith.” The movie will tell the story of the titular boxer who lived secretly as a bisexual, and killed Benny “The Kid” Paret in the ring, after he called him a homosexual during a weigh-in before the fight. Here’s the book synopsis:
On 24 March 1962, when Emile Griffith stepped into the ring in Madison Square Garden to defend his world title against Benny Paret, he was filled with rage. During their weigh-in, the Cuban challenger had denounced Griffith as a ‘faggot’ and minced towards him. In the macho world of boxing, where fighters know they are engaged in the hurt game, there could be no greater insult. At that time, it was illegal for people of the same gender to have sex, or even for a bar to knowingly serve a drink to a gay person. It was an insinuation that could have had dangerous consequences for Griffith – especially as it was true.
In the fight that followed, Griffith pounded Paret into unconsciousness, and the Cuban would die soon after, leaving Griffith haunted by what he had done. Despite this, he went on to fight more world championship rounds than any other fighter in history in a career that lasted for almost 20 years.
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“You look at how closely his two worlds intersected. 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,” Abrahamson told Deadline about the material. “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.”
Abrahamson will co-write the script, and plans to make it as soon as he can, but coming up first will be “The Little Stranger” which is slated to shoot next summer.