Submitted by Bill the Rake
An overheard cell phone conversation between Jamie Foxx and Muhammad Ali on the Ali movie set.
The main actors on the stage were Michael Mann with his digital video dance, Will Smith, totally becoming the great boxer Muhammed Ali, Jon Voight playing Howard Cosell and everyone thinking he was Howard, and Jaime Foxx playing chess. The supporting actors were Ron Silver as Angelo Dundee who after Ali became Bobby Riggs the tennis fiend, Mario Van Peeples who with Malcolm X's daughter's approval plays Malcolm X, and the actual boxer who played Joe Frazier and almost knocked out Will Smith on many an occasion.
In short, you can sum up this movie as a hard class run by a mean teacher that everyone complained about, but the class was really the only time you ever learned anything. Forget what you thought you should have known.
Filmmaking in essence is like going to a big ass keg party. Everyone tries to stand around the keg and drink from the monitor. It's always a lot of people standing around and after about two million feet of film, voila - it's a one-hundred and fifty-three minute movie! I got to play his Uncle Jim attending the Joe Frazier vs. Cassius Clay fight in Miami back in 1960 something as well as a Houston Bubba Cop at some hotel where Michael Mann says, "Now stand against the car like youse had a hawd day at werk."
In attendance was one of my buddies dressed up as Wayne Newton. Also there was every starlet in Hollywood, who were all placed in close proximity of Jamie Foxx so he could tantalize them. Old timers who owned yachts but loved boxing, Naomi Campbell stalkers, and the most interesting was Rock Hudson's butler who claimed matter a factly that Rock would tuck him into bed each night, seriously, with milk and cookies.
All we had heard about the film before walking on to the set was that the producers were ex-hair and make-up people from Sony and that Michael Mann was the director of Miami Vice. As for the assistant director, we thought his family owned Waxman's Camera Shop in Denver and Chicago so we respected his orders for action. And well, Will Smith looked more like Muhammad Ali than say, Will Smith. They told us he had trained for two years.
John Voight told us that his old man was the golf pro of Czechoslovakia. When it came time to act Michael Mann had a hard time getting him do anything when he called him "Jon." But when he finally called him "Howard" all the thespians within earshot felt that was like a years worth of method acting classes and vowed to take those classes no more.
When Jaime Foxx took time out from his Russian style chess match, he braved playing Ali's doctor, Drew "Bundii" Brown. In between shots he related to the seriousness of the film and told us that his father was in the Texas penitentiary system on death row and that he was indeed proud to be from Texas and that Terril, Texas was the home of the Texas State Mental Institution. He also tried to get the starlets to think he was sensitive by asking them if they watched "Oprah."
Forget what you think you know.
The Ali poster says a thousand words. The expression on Will Smith's face shows the blows that he's about to receive and the true intensity of the fight scenes. He does look like he is "the greatest." He truly learned how to box and almost got knocked out on many occasions. He taunted, incited, and joked with us after every shot. I asked a child actress who's father was a boxing promoter about the Ali movie and from her response I gathered that if you thought showbiz was tough, well turn boxing up to an nth degree.
When there was a lull in the action and Will Smith had worn out all the rehearsal moves, the real live Angelo Dundee would consult the actor. When all else had failed, he would demonstrate a boxing punch much like "Popeye the Sailor Man" in full circle wind up and then release with an upper cut. The filmmakers tried to match the exact moves of the actual fight from the original black and white footage. So we spent most of our time reenacting the actual fight between Cassius Clay and Joe Frazier, so if you were there like my Uncle Jim you would be transported back into time.
With the advent of television in the fifties boxing was just far too brutal. Doctors today are rigorously trained to know when a boxer is at the point of no return. Sometimes like modern gladiators boxers would get killed in the ring, so for better or for worse Cassius Clay came along in the tradition of professional wrestling's Gorgeous George Wagner and single-handedly saved the sport of boxing with his poetry and antics, rope-a-dope wrangling Howard Cosell along the way. The Ali movie should be a testimonial to the American spirit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I'm going to forget what I think I know and watch Jamie Foxx's bald spot for continuity, as well as all the characters in the background.