December 25, 2001
Release pushed back from December 7, 2001
Will Smith takes on his biggest dramatic acting challenge since Six Degrees of Separation in 1993 in this bio-pic about boxer Muhammad Ali. Born Cassius Clay, he is well-known to all as one of the greatest sports legends of the 20th century. A multi-time heavyweight world champion, Ali was a celebrity who rivaled Elvis Presley in terms of international fame in the 1960s and 1970s. Still wildly popular today, he has been the subject of films in the past, but it's presumed that the Smith version will be easily the most epic to date. Oscar forecasters have been targeting this depiction since it was first announced as a likely contender for best actor, and Smith has certainly taken the role to heart. He trained heavily for a period of several months in order to better attain the physical appearance of Ali, who was actually somewhat small for a heavyweight fighter.
The tale itself is familiar ground to many, as the prizefighter attained a great deal of celebrity in fights such as the Thrilla in Manilla, the Rumble in the Jungle, and the shocking upset of Sonny Liston for his first crown. From his well-publicized name change from a "slave name" to that of a devout Muslim to his upset of the unbeatable monster, George Foreman, to his refusal to fight in Viet Nam, Ali generated headlines in such a fashion that he was a direct precursor to the modern athlete's love/hate relationship with sports news organizations. Even though most of us know the general details about this athlete, his story is still so fascinating that many will be drawn to it because of their love of the athlete. After all, Muhammad Ali was chosen Athlete of the Century in at least four major polls. The interest in the man's story is quite real.
How well will it do at the box office? That's somewhat harder to predict. We certainly saw last December that if a quality film is released into theaters, people will find it, independent of subject matter. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Traffic were both described in terms of poorly-received genres, yet both films made $125 million domestic. If we look at recent big-screen biographies, comparisons like Man on the Moon indicate that box-office performance could be brutal, but Raging Bull and The Hurricane show that the life story of a boxer can pave the way to an Oscar nomination. In this day and age, such a nomination means greatly enhanced box office, so this is an important note. Since 1980, there have been 34 best actor nominations given to thespians portraying real people. That's almost two a year, and a good sign for the final box office of this film if Smith's performance works well enough to get nominated. It doesn't look to be a threat to Ocean's 11 winning this weekend, but long term, as with The Hurricane, this film's success hinges on only one factor: Will Smith. (David Mumpower/BOP)
October 2, 2001
Sony has now decided on a December 25th opening for Ali and plans to launch it in approximately 2,500 theaters. Sony executives say they moved the release because of the appeal of a Christmas opening rather than because there was any real problem with its previous release date. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Vital statistics for Ali
Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight
Mario Van Peebles, Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright, Mykelti Williamson, Jada Pinkett Smith
Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Eric Roth, Michael Mann
||Click Here for Trailer
|| Stephanie Smith reviews the Ali trailer
Awards page for Ali
||Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture
Comparison films for Ali
|Why Do Fools Fall in Love?
|My Left Foot