Coming this October to HBO is the latest HBO film presentation. It is entitled MUHAMMAD ALI’S GREATEST FIGHT and tells of an historic event in his life that rocked the nation. It was not the “Thrilla In Manila” bout or any other boxing event that gave him a tough tussle but his refusal to be enlisted into U. S. military service and his consequent appearance in front of the U. S. Supreme Court that put him out of commission. This all happened within the course of four years from the ages of twenty-six to twenty-nine in the midst of his pugilistic prime. He refused to serve military duty due to his religious beliefs and his opposition to the Vietnam War. As a result he was arrested for draft evasion and stripped of his Boxing Heavyweight Champion title and given the title of Conscientious Objector instead. He appealed the ruling and in 1971 the Supreme Court overturned his conviction.
The upcoming HBO film, premiering 10.05.13, tells the story of the court process giving the viewer all the background required and an examination of the U. S. Justices as they battled the issue. The film stars Christopher Plummer (as Justice John Harlan), Frank Langella (as Justice Warren Burger), Ed Begley,Jr. (as Justice Harry Blackmun), Peter Gerety (as Justice William Brennan), Barry Levinson (as Justice Potter Stewart), John Bedford Lloyd (as Justice Byron “Whizzer” White), Fritz Weaver (as Justice Hugo Black), Harris Yulin (as Justice William O. Douglas), Danny Glover (as Justice Thurgood Marshall) and Benjamin Walker (as Kevin Connolly). NO ONE is cast as Muhammad Ali; he is only referenced via archival footage.
Actor Christopher Plummer has been quite excited and vocal about his role in the movie as he has appeared promoting it already. He plays Justice John Harlan. He was a conservative voice on the Supreme Court and often held his ground on the job but was a warm friend to his staff off the bench. That last fact explains Benjamin Walker’s role as one of Harlan’s top clerks, Kevin Connolly. Mr. Plummer has been able to release himself some clips from the upcoming movie that HBOWatch will also share here.
The team making this movie possible consists of director & executive producer Stephen Frears, writer Shawn Slovo and executive producer Frank Doelger among others.
Stephen Frears (director, executive producer) made his Hollywood debut with “Dangerous Liaisons” in 1989, which received six Oscar® nominations, followed by “The Grifters,” produced by Martin Scorsese .Frears gained an Oscar nomination for Best Director for that film. His other credits include “My Beautiful Laundrette,” “High Fidelity,” “Dirty Pretty Things,” the BAFTA Award-winning “The Deal,” “Mrs. Henderson Presents” and “The Queen,” which also earned him an Oscar® nomination for Best Director.
Shawn Slovo (writer) wrote her first screenplay, “A World Apart,” in 1987. The film won the Jury Prize, the Ecumenical and Best Actress Awards at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. Her adaptation of “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” for Working Title/Universal was directed by John Madden in 2000. “Catch a Fire,” an original screenplay for Working Title Films, directed by Phillip Noyce, was released by Focus Features in 2007.
Frank Doelger (executive producer) was a producer on the Emmy®-winning HBO presentations JOHN ADAMS and ROME. His other HBO credits include the Emmy winners MY HOUSE IN UMBRIA, THE GATHERING STORM and others.
HBOWatch looks forward to HBO Films: MUHAMMAD ALI’S GREATEST FIGHT and will have a review shortly after its premiere on 10.15.13.