Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Jonathan Eig's "Ali: A Life"

Ken Burns calls Jonathan Eig a "master storyteller." Eig is the author of five books, two of them New York Times best sellers.

Here the author shares some thoughts about a movie adapted from his new biography, Ali: A Life:
I never pictured anyone but Muhammad Ali as Muhammad Ali. He was bigger than any Hollywood actor…and he told us so. In fact, he portrayed himself in the first movie based on his life.

“Movie star!” he screamed on the set one day. “I’m a mooooooo-veeeeeee starrrr!”

Ali had big plans for his career in film.

“This face is worth billions,” he said. “My roles have always got to be Number One. I can’t be the boy in the kitchen. Some big football star plays the waiter in the movie while some homosexual gets the lead role. I got to be the hero. Like Charlton Heston, he’s got a serious image. Moses. In ‘Airport’ he was the captain, a real man. Always distinguished, always high class.” And there would be no sex scenes. “Kissinger wouldn’t do that,” he said, referring to the secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, “and I’m bigger than Kissinger.”

Little known fact: Warner Brothers offered Ali $250,000 plus a percentage of revenues to star in Heaven Can Wait, the remake of a 1941 film called Here Comes Mr. Jordan, about a boxer who is removed from his body prematurely by an overanxious angel and who returns to life in the body of a recently murdered millionaire. When Ali turned down the part, director Warren Beatty cast himself in the lead role and changed the character from a boxer to a football player.

Well, since Ali can no longer play himself, and since Will Smith already had his turn, I think it’s time for a younger, less famous actor to take a shot at it. But it’s got to be someone as gorgeous and magnetic as Ali. Can anyone contend?
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Eig's website.

--Marshal Zeringue