Ali


2h 38m 2001

Brief Synopsis

Biopic about the flamboyant boxer that captured the attention of the world. Focuses on his earlier years as Cassius Clay and his rise in politics and sports.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Action
Biography
Sports
Release Date
2001
Distribution Company
Sony Pictures Releasing
Location
New York, USA; Miami, Florida, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Mozambique; Maputo, Mozambique; South Africa

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 38m

Synopsis

The life story of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, following the champ's early days as Cassius Clay and his rise in sports and politics, including his controversial refusal to fight in the Vietnam War and his infamous comeback battles against Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Cast

Will Smith

Jamie Foxx

Jon Voight

Mario Van Peebles

Ron Silver

Henrikennyo Mukenyi

Bruce Mcgill

Nona Gaye

Jada Pinkett Smith

Joe Morton

Andrew P Jones

Dr. Denis Luposo

Tamara Lynch

Paul Rodriguez

Themba Gasa

Jack Reiss

Morgana Van Peebles

Marc Kulazite Mboli

David Elliott

Vince Cooke

John Maskovich

Lead Man

Malick Bowens

John Ortiz

Giancarlo Esposito

Lee Cummings

Larry Hazzard

Sharon Wilkinson

Shari Watson

Michael Dorn

Mykelti Williamson

Eddie Bo Smith Jr.

Millard Arnold

Derrick Brown

James Gilbert

Keabetswe Motsilanyane

Theron Benymon

Wei Yi Lu

Victoria Dillard

Maya Van Peebles

Rufus Dorsey

Steven Randazzo

Candy Brown Houston

Barry Shabaka Henley

Daniel Janks

Maestro Harrell

Ron Dinicola

Martin Denkin

Kim Robillard

Daniel E Gurevitz

David Purdham

Nathaniel Malekane

Patrick New

Ladonna Tittle

Michael A. Bentt

David Cubitt

Frank Notaro

Jean Bikoi

Jim Gray

Wade Andrew Williams

Warner Saunders

Richard Katanga

Marc Grapey

Mark Salem

Laurence Mason

Leonard Termo

Mel Dick

Christian Stolte

Poe Poe

Thomas Kariuki Matheri

Melvin Thomas

Doug Hale

Jeffrey Wright

Moses Hollins

Gailard Sartain

Kim Coleman

Bokyun Chun

Alfred Cole

Sylvaine Strike

Robert Byrd

Natalie Carter

Reginald William Footman

James N Toney

Raymond Bokhour

Graham Hopkins

Edda Collier

Patrick C Russell

Levar Burton

Ron O J Parson

Will Gill

Michael Michele

Carol Hatchett

William Utay

Robert Sale

Bob Stuart

Graham Clarke

Judith Mwale

Vic Manni

Mark Mulder

Albert Hall

Cimanga Kalambay

Rommel Hyacinth

Pat Connolly

Ellis E. Williams

Brad Greenquist

David Hess

Bradford E Lang

Guy Van Swearingen

David Haines

Steve Springer

Sheldon Fogel

Bill Plaschke

Ted Levine

John Gleeson Connolly

Dimitri Cassar

Damien Wills

Cedric Wills

Zaa Nkweta

Dan Robbertse

Herb Mitchell

Charles Shufford

Stephen P Durante

Lead Man

Crew

Gordon Adams

Grip

Matthew Adams

Rotoscope Animator

Marcos Alvarez

Set Designer

Jonathan Alvord

Avid Editor

Caulo Amade

Electrician

Mike Anderson

Boom Operator

Roy T Anderson

Stunt Double

Francis Annan

Key Grip

Francis Annan Jr.

Key Grip

Gordon Antell

Assistant Editor

Michael Apenteng

Wardrobe

Paul Ardaji

Producer

Greg Aronowitz

Modelmaker

David M Atkinson

Accounting Assistant

Pierce Austin

Hair Stylist

Lori Ball

Assistant Editor

Alishja A Ballard

Props

Lori A Balton

Location Assistant

Raphael A Banks

Transportation Co-Captain

Allan Barnes

Best Boy Electric

Lynn Basas

Cg Supervisor

Christopher Bass

Art Director

Mitchell Bell

Production Coordinator

Rayford Berrymon

Assistant Editor

Ben Beukes

Electrician

Howard Bingham

Executive Producer

Gilles Boisacq

Grip

Robert Bolger

Costume Department

Karen Boswell

Sound Recordist

Gerard Botha

Camera Operator

Patrick Botha

Electrician

Pieter Bourke

Music

Mary A Brady

Props

Sharleen Bright

Painter

Anita Brongiel

Production

Jerrold F. Brooks

Props

Steven Brooks

Electrician

Michael W. Broomer

Driver

Erik L Brown

Assistant Camera

Glenn Brown

Assistant Camera

Robert Brown

Unit Production Manager

Theodore A. Brown

Transportation Captain

Aillene Laure Bubis

Accounting Assistant

John Buckley

Chief Lighting Technician

Mary Buono

Hair Stylist

Tim Burgard

Storyboard Artist

Brian Callier

Film Lab

Greg Cannom

Special Makeup Effects

Christina Carothers

Special Effects Technician

Cristen Carr Strubbe

Unit Production Manager

Bryan Carroll

Associate Editor

James D Carter

Projectionist

John C Casey

Costume Supervisor

Lydia Cedrone

Production Associate

Gusmano Cesaretti

Associate Producer

Maria K. Chavez

Location Manager

Wally Chin

Digital Effects Artist

Meike Chinnery

Video

Edgar Chissico

Electrician

Brian Cho

Art Department

Mannie Chonka

Electrician

Lynn Christopher

Set Designer

Diana Cilliers

Costume Supervisor

Kevin C Clark

Editor

Caroline Clements

Hair Stylist

Kim Coleman

Casting Associate

Keith Collea

Video Assist/Playback

Tim Colletti

Assistant Editor

Frank Connor

Photography

Jeffrey A Cook

Best Boy Electric

Sam Cooke

Song Performer

Kathy Cossu

Medic

Lars Cox

Camera Focus Puller

Samuel C Crutcher

Foley Editor

Gary Dahlquist

Rigging Gaffer

Paul Damm

Production

Holly Davis

Set Costumer

Kevin De La Noy

Unit Production Manager

Bernie De Wet

Electrician

Oscar Delgadillo

Gang Boss

Russel Delport

Electrician

Yann Delpuech

Supervising Sound Editor

Liz Van Den Berg

Scenic Artist

Demetra Diamantopoulos

Location Manager

Michael Diersing

Foreman

Shirley Dolle

Hair Stylist

David Dontoh

Casting

Kim Du Plessis

Costumer

Joe Dubs

Digital Effects Artist

Angelo Dundee

Technical Advisor

Jeanne Dupont

Costume Designer

Robb Earnest

Assistant

Susan Ehrhart

Production Coordinator

Christopher Emerson

Assistant Sound Editor

Dihantus Engelbrecht

Costumer

Anthony English

Video

Jim Erickson

Set Decorator

Nicklas Farrantello

Art Director

Dudley Fillies

Electrician

Robert M Fischer

Best Boy Grip

Kathryn Fisher

Assistant

Kenneth Fisher

Electrician

Anne C. Ford

Production Accountant

Darrell Foster

Instructor

Chris Freres

Best Boy Grip

John Friday

Chief Lighting Technician

Steven W Gage

Rigging Grip

Kenny Gallagher

Accounting Assistant

Mark Garbarino

Makeup

Will Gatlin

Craft Service

Lisa Gerrard

Music

Paul Giorgi

Accountant

William Goldenberg

Editor

Barry E Golob

Driver

James Greene

Rigging Electrician

Romaine Greene

Hair Stylist

John Grillo

Camera Operator

Harry Haase

Painter

Houston Hadden

Camera Operator

Michael Haight

Dialogue Editor

Keith Hall

Makeup Artist

Scott E. Handt

Propman

Julie Hannum

Location Manager

Emmanuel Hanson

Technical Advisor

Scott Hanson

Production Secretary

Glen Hanz

Sculptor

Shaughnessy Hare

Assistant Sound Editor

Lori D Harris

Costumer

Thomas Hayslip

Production Supervisor

Jonathan Hely-hutchinson

Set Designer

Craig Henighan

Sound Effects Editor

Alex Hepburn

Assistant Editor

Rory Herbster

Rigging Electrician

Julie Herrin

Assistant Director

Billy Higgins

Unit Production Manager

James A Hill

Medic

A. Kitman Ho

Producer

Michael Hofacre

Editor

Bill Hogan

Transportation Captain

Trevor Horn

Music Producer

Beverly House

Makeup Artist

Gregory Allen Howard

Story By

Gregory Allen Howard

From Story

Arkay Hur

Digital Effects Artist

Joni Indursky

Props

Roy Irwin

Medic

Vinson Jae

Painter

Gary Jay

Camera Operator

Anne Johns

Production Associate

Jane B Johnson

Set Decorator

Kent Johnson

Visual Effects

Annette Keet

Hair Stylist

Andre Kemp

Electrician

Erma Kent

Hair Stylist

James V Kent

Set Decorator

John Kim

Visual Effects

Mary Kim

Production Supervisor

Darren King

Supervising Sound Editor

Graham King

Executive Producer

Gregory King

Supervising Sound Editor

Steven King

Special Effects Technician

Jamie Klein

Rigging Grip

Lynzee Klingman

Editor

Robert Komatsu

Assistant Editor

Selma Kora

Props

Goro Koyama

Foley Artist

Joel Kramer

Stunt Coordinator

Dana S Kroeger

Assistant Camera

David Krummel

Art Director

Cathy Kukard

Costumer

Paul Kuzmich

Craft Service

Kristine Lankenau

Digital Effects Artist

Kevin Larosa

Pilot

James Lassiter

Producer

Ernest H Lauterio

Props

Vince Lavares

Digital Effects Artist

James Lay

Sound Effects Editor

Don Lee

Digital Effects Artist

Jonathan Lee

Art Director

Reza Levy

Costumer

Mike Lewis

Rigging Grip

Thomas E. Lewis

Key Grip

Richard Lexsee

Stunts

Emmanuel Lubezki

Dp/Cinematographer

Emmanuel Lubezki

Director Of Photography

Nina Lucia

Assistant Editor

Eric J Luling

On-Set Dresser

Karyn Lyman

Casting Assistant

Andrew Maccallum

Rigging Electrician

Pepsi Mahanisi

Electrician

Jose Mahumane

Electrician

Mark Majcher

Transportation

Willie Makuvela

Electrician

Andy Malcolm

Foley Artist

Edward Malone

Assistant Editor

Mark Mamalakis

Location Manager

Robert Mance

Visual Effects

Michael Mann

Producer

Michael Mann

Screenplay

Pablo B Mantas

Wardrobe

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Action
Biography
Sports
Release Date
2001
Distribution Company
Sony Pictures Releasing
Location
New York, USA; Miami, Florida, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Mozambique; Maputo, Mozambique; South Africa

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 38m

Award Nominations

Best Actor

2001
Will Smith

Best Supporting Actor

2001
Jon Voight

Articles

Ali (2001) - Ali


Will Smith plays "The Greatest," Muhammad Ali, in Michael Mann's biographical drama, Ali (2001), which covers the ten tumultuous years of his life from his first title match with Sonny Liston to his thrilling comeback in the "Rumble in the Jungle" fight with George Foreman in Zaire. These are the years when the man once known as Cassius Clay befriended Malcolm X, converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammad Ali and defied the government by refusing to serve in Vietnam; he stood by his principles even as he was convicted of draft evasion. He was stripped of his title and banned from the ring, and subsequently shunned by the Nation of Islam. Yet, Ali fought his way back to reclaim his title after he was exonerated by the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision. Mann chose to focus on these years not just because they were the most volatile and dramatic era of Ali's life, but because his transformation in this period, and his determination to stand by his principles in the face of legal threats and public hostility, offered a window into the era and insight to the personality and commitment that would guide the rest of his life.

Many efforts to make a feature film on the life of Muhammad Ali, thought to be the most famous man on the planet in the sixties and seventies, had been attempted for ten years. A script by Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson made the rounds of the studios and directors and Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Norman Jewison and Steven Spielberg all reportedly tried to claim the project with no success. When Michael Mann signed on to Ali, he brought Eric Roth (his collaborator on the acclaimed The Insider, 1999) on board to help reshape the script; they cut down the sprawling screenplay (which originally covered Ali's entire life) to the dynamic period between 1964 and 1974 and put in their own research to sharpen their presentation of those events. But Michael Mann resisted calling it a biopic. "We're not here just to show you the events from the outside," he explained in a 2001 New York Times interview. "This is about the real Ali, the one the public saw, but also about the one they didn't see, and have never seen. We show him at his best, defying the U.S. government, refusing to be inducted into the Army and losing three and a half years of his career for it. We also show him at his worst, taunting and insulting his black opponents and cheating on his wife. This isn't an idealized Ali."

Will Smith was one of the biggest screen stars of the day, thanks to hits such as Independence Day (1996) and Men in Black (1997), but despite his superb breakthrough performance in the screen version of John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation (1993), he had yet to establish himself as a "serious" actor who could carry a film of this magnitude. He threw himself into the project with a vengeance, studying Ali's vocal inflections and delivery from archival film footage and TV interviews (including rare footage supplied by Leon Gast, the director of the 1996 documentary When We Were Kings). Smith wanted to offer not an impression so much as a suggestion that captures the sing-song lilt of Ali's trash-talk poetry, his voice dancing through the words as if verbally sparring. Smith trained for a year with famed trainer and former boxer Darrell Foster to get himself into fighting shape and put on 35 pounds to bring him up to Ali's weight class. Determined to make the fight scenes real, Smith traded real punches with his opponents. Charles Shufford, the real-life heavyweight boxer cast as George Foreman, was told to hit as hard as he could in his fight with Smith, short of knocking out or seriously injuring the actor. Mann praised Smith's ability to capture not just Ali's fighting style but his body language and his thoughtful focus. In pre-fight scenes and breaks between rounds, as trainers and advisors hustle around Ali and shout suggestions to the fighter, Smith is still and intent, his eyes looking to the future as his mind works through his strategy. You can almost see him thinking his way through his fights and brainstorming his legendary rope-a-dope strategy in the Foreman fight.

Both Mann and Smith insist that Jon Voight was their first choice to play Howard Cosell, the famed sportscaster who became both Ali's friend and media adversary. Almost unrecognizable under the make-up (so heavy that at times he's something of a waxwork, which is somehow appropriate for Cosell), Voight's evocation of Cosell's distinctive delivery is dead-on, but he also offers the human side of Cosell with amused smiles and concerned private conversations with Ali outside the interviews. "You could see that after a while this genuine relationship grew," Voight told the New York Times in 2001. "There hasn't been anything like it before or after in sports history."

Jamie Foxx took on the role of Ali's cornerman Drew Bundini Brown, the street poet behind Ali's pronouncements and the author of his distinctive lyric "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," Mario Van Peebles plays Malcolm X, Mykelti Williamson put on a fright wig to become Don King, LeVar Burton is Martin Luther King, Jr. and Albert Hall is Elijah Muhammad. Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright, Jada Pinkett Smith, Michael Michele, Joe Morton, Paul Rodriguez, Bruce McGill and Giancarlo Esposito fill out the balance of the major supporting roles.

Ali was budgeted at around $100 million, a significant investment for 2001 that was secured by the casting of Smith and the commitment of Mann and Smith to cover cost overruns. Mann made the most of his budget to take the production on location for key sequences in Ghana, South Africa and Mozambique (standing in for the former Zaire, now the war-torn Congo). According to Smith, shooting on location was essential to his performance in the final act as it provided an opportunity to connect with the country, the culture and the people of Mozambique, just as Ali did in Zaire while training for the Foreman fight in 1974.

The film was released to mixed reviews but drew almost universal praise for the performances. Roger Ebert wrote that Smith was "sharp, fast, funny, like the Ali of trash-talking fame" but found the film "long, flat, curiously muted film." Variety critic Todd McCarthy called the film an "ambitious and cold study...a picture that feels bottled up rather than exuberant" but that Smith "carries the picture with consummate skill." The film failed to make back its cost, according to Box Office Mojo, but both Smith and Voight received well-deserved nominations for their performances and the film remains a respected portrait of the athlete and the man still revered as one of the great heroes of the 20th century: sports legend, cultural icon and outspoken citizen of the world.

Producers: Paul Ardaji, A. Kitman Ho, James Lassiter, Michael Mann, Jon Peters
Director: Michael Mann
Screenplay: Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Eric Roth, Michael Mann (screenplay); Gregory Allen Howard (story)
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki
Art Direction: Jonathan Lee, Bill Rea, Tomas Voth
Music: Pieter Bourke, Lisa Gerrard
Film Editing: William Goldenberg, Lynzee Klingman, Stephen Rivkin, Stuart Waks
Cast: Will Smith (Cassius Clay/Cassius X/Muhammad Ali), Jamie Foxx (Drew 'Bundini' Brown), Jon Voight (Howard Cosell), Mario Van Peebles (Malcolm X), Ron Silver (Angelo Dundee), Jeffrey Wright (Howard Bingham), Mykelti Williamson (Don King), Jada Pinkett Smith (Sonji Roi), Nona Gaye (Belinda Ali), Michael Michele (Veronica Porche).
C-157m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Sean Axmaker
Ali (2001) - Ali

Ali (2001) - Ali

Will Smith plays "The Greatest," Muhammad Ali, in Michael Mann's biographical drama, Ali (2001), which covers the ten tumultuous years of his life from his first title match with Sonny Liston to his thrilling comeback in the "Rumble in the Jungle" fight with George Foreman in Zaire. These are the years when the man once known as Cassius Clay befriended Malcolm X, converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammad Ali and defied the government by refusing to serve in Vietnam; he stood by his principles even as he was convicted of draft evasion. He was stripped of his title and banned from the ring, and subsequently shunned by the Nation of Islam. Yet, Ali fought his way back to reclaim his title after he was exonerated by the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision. Mann chose to focus on these years not just because they were the most volatile and dramatic era of Ali's life, but because his transformation in this period, and his determination to stand by his principles in the face of legal threats and public hostility, offered a window into the era and insight to the personality and commitment that would guide the rest of his life. Many efforts to make a feature film on the life of Muhammad Ali, thought to be the most famous man on the planet in the sixties and seventies, had been attempted for ten years. A script by Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson made the rounds of the studios and directors and Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Norman Jewison and Steven Spielberg all reportedly tried to claim the project with no success. When Michael Mann signed on to Ali, he brought Eric Roth (his collaborator on the acclaimed The Insider, 1999) on board to help reshape the script; they cut down the sprawling screenplay (which originally covered Ali's entire life) to the dynamic period between 1964 and 1974 and put in their own research to sharpen their presentation of those events. But Michael Mann resisted calling it a biopic. "We're not here just to show you the events from the outside," he explained in a 2001 New York Times interview. "This is about the real Ali, the one the public saw, but also about the one they didn't see, and have never seen. We show him at his best, defying the U.S. government, refusing to be inducted into the Army and losing three and a half years of his career for it. We also show him at his worst, taunting and insulting his black opponents and cheating on his wife. This isn't an idealized Ali." Will Smith was one of the biggest screen stars of the day, thanks to hits such as Independence Day (1996) and Men in Black (1997), but despite his superb breakthrough performance in the screen version of John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation (1993), he had yet to establish himself as a "serious" actor who could carry a film of this magnitude. He threw himself into the project with a vengeance, studying Ali's vocal inflections and delivery from archival film footage and TV interviews (including rare footage supplied by Leon Gast, the director of the 1996 documentary When We Were Kings). Smith wanted to offer not an impression so much as a suggestion that captures the sing-song lilt of Ali's trash-talk poetry, his voice dancing through the words as if verbally sparring. Smith trained for a year with famed trainer and former boxer Darrell Foster to get himself into fighting shape and put on 35 pounds to bring him up to Ali's weight class. Determined to make the fight scenes real, Smith traded real punches with his opponents. Charles Shufford, the real-life heavyweight boxer cast as George Foreman, was told to hit as hard as he could in his fight with Smith, short of knocking out or seriously injuring the actor. Mann praised Smith's ability to capture not just Ali's fighting style but his body language and his thoughtful focus. In pre-fight scenes and breaks between rounds, as trainers and advisors hustle around Ali and shout suggestions to the fighter, Smith is still and intent, his eyes looking to the future as his mind works through his strategy. You can almost see him thinking his way through his fights and brainstorming his legendary rope-a-dope strategy in the Foreman fight. Both Mann and Smith insist that Jon Voight was their first choice to play Howard Cosell, the famed sportscaster who became both Ali's friend and media adversary. Almost unrecognizable under the make-up (so heavy that at times he's something of a waxwork, which is somehow appropriate for Cosell), Voight's evocation of Cosell's distinctive delivery is dead-on, but he also offers the human side of Cosell with amused smiles and concerned private conversations with Ali outside the interviews. "You could see that after a while this genuine relationship grew," Voight told the New York Times in 2001. "There hasn't been anything like it before or after in sports history." Jamie Foxx took on the role of Ali's cornerman Drew Bundini Brown, the street poet behind Ali's pronouncements and the author of his distinctive lyric "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," Mario Van Peebles plays Malcolm X, Mykelti Williamson put on a fright wig to become Don King, LeVar Burton is Martin Luther King, Jr. and Albert Hall is Elijah Muhammad. Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright, Jada Pinkett Smith, Michael Michele, Joe Morton, Paul Rodriguez, Bruce McGill and Giancarlo Esposito fill out the balance of the major supporting roles. Ali was budgeted at around $100 million, a significant investment for 2001 that was secured by the casting of Smith and the commitment of Mann and Smith to cover cost overruns. Mann made the most of his budget to take the production on location for key sequences in Ghana, South Africa and Mozambique (standing in for the former Zaire, now the war-torn Congo). According to Smith, shooting on location was essential to his performance in the final act as it provided an opportunity to connect with the country, the culture and the people of Mozambique, just as Ali did in Zaire while training for the Foreman fight in 1974. The film was released to mixed reviews but drew almost universal praise for the performances. Roger Ebert wrote that Smith was "sharp, fast, funny, like the Ali of trash-talking fame" but found the film "long, flat, curiously muted film." Variety critic Todd McCarthy called the film an "ambitious and cold study...a picture that feels bottled up rather than exuberant" but that Smith "carries the picture with consummate skill." The film failed to make back its cost, according to Box Office Mojo, but both Smith and Voight received well-deserved nominations for their performances and the film remains a respected portrait of the athlete and the man still revered as one of the great heroes of the 20th century: sports legend, cultural icon and outspoken citizen of the world. Producers: Paul Ardaji, A. Kitman Ho, James Lassiter, Michael Mann, Jon Peters Director: Michael Mann Screenplay: Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Eric Roth, Michael Mann (screenplay); Gregory Allen Howard (story) Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki Art Direction: Jonathan Lee, Bill Rea, Tomas Voth Music: Pieter Bourke, Lisa Gerrard Film Editing: William Goldenberg, Lynzee Klingman, Stephen Rivkin, Stuart Waks Cast: Will Smith (Cassius Clay/Cassius X/Muhammad Ali), Jamie Foxx (Drew 'Bundini' Brown), Jon Voight (Howard Cosell), Mario Van Peebles (Malcolm X), Ron Silver (Angelo Dundee), Jeffrey Wright (Howard Bingham), Mykelti Williamson (Don King), Jada Pinkett Smith (Sonji Roi), Nona Gaye (Belinda Ali), Michael Michele (Veronica Porche). C-157m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video. by Sean Axmaker

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Oliver Stone was previously attached to direct.

Completed shooting June 1, 2001.

Began shooting January 11, 2001.

Released in United States Winter December 25, 2001

Released in United States Winter December 25, 2001