The story of legendary tennis champ Arthur Ashe, the first African-American player to be selected to the U.S. Davis Cup team and to win three Grand Slam singles titles, is heading to the big screen, with full support of the Arthur Ashe Estate.
Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment Group and Warner Music Group (WMG) have partnered to adapt the story of the Wimbledon tennis champion and civil rights activist, with Academy Award winner Kevin Willmott (“BlacKkKlansman,” “Da 5 Bloods”) penning the screenplay.
The biopic follows the sporting story of the African American tennis icon who defied all odds, from the public courts in Richmond, Virginia, to becoming the only black man to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, and was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1968 — one of the most charged eras in American history as the nation struggled with the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., anti-Vietnam protests, and the civil rights movement — before he retired in 1980.
Ashe demonstrated his emotional courage and bravery in his choice to reveal to the world his struggle with AIDS, which was believed to have been contracted from a blood transfusion he received during heart bypass surgery. Ashe publicly announced his illness in 1992, then spent the last year of his life working to educate and broaden public awareness of HIV and AIDS.
He died in 1993 at the age of 49. That same year he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.
The film will also embrace the music and creativity that came from this remarkable era, highlighting the extraordinary works from iconic African American artists including Aretha Franklin, Prince, Curtis Mayfield, and many more. Warner Music Group will help secure the music and provide creative guidance.
“Arthur’s legacy reaches far beyond his greatness as a tennis player,” former Wimbledon pro Amritraj said. “Always a gentleman; bold, graceful, and intellectual; while at the same time passionate in his fight against racial inequality and injustice, I am honored to bring Arthur’s story to the screen.”
Amritraj will produce for Hyde Park and Charles Cohen for WMG. Executive producers include Ashe’s wife Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Hyde Park’s Priya Amritraj and Addison Mehr, alongside Alexandra Dell.
Willmott is represented by Gersh and Erik Hyman at Paul Hastings LLP.