New Muhammad Ali Biopic Will Chronicle His Legal Battle With United States Government

According to Variety, Searchlight is developing a film based on the true story of Muhammad Ali’s refusal to enlist in the United States Army during the Vietnam War in 1967. Shola Amoo has signed on to direct the project from a script by Phillip Howze.

Based on Leigh Montville’s Sting Like a Bee: Muhammad Ali vs. The United States of America, the film will cover the political and cultural implications of the boxer’s decision to evade military service. Ali had good reasons for his rebellious act, and he vocalised them in a passionate way only he could.

As the Washington Post noted, Ali famously said that he didn’t have a problem with the Viet Cong, which informed his decision not to fight them. His Islamic beliefs also factored into his decision, and he perhaps had more grievances with the United States than he did with the country’s enemy at the time.

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me n***er, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

Of course, this didn’t sit too well with the United States government. Ali was sentenced to five years in prison, fined, and stripped of his boxing license. The decision was overturned by the Supreme Court seven years later, but Ali still experienced exile and divided a nation’s opinion of him. To many, he was a hero. To others, he was a traitor

The legal case that ensued meant that Ali didn’t get locked behind bars. As the Vietnam War became even more divisive, the boxer used what could have been the final days of his freedom to campaign against the brutality. He gave speeches in campuses and went on to become a leading figure in the anti-war and civil rights movements.

Ali’s boxing license was restored in 1970, and he went on to have some of his most famous matches against opponents such as Joe Frazier and George Forman. One of those bouts was “The Rumble in the Jungle” that took place in Zaire in 1974.

While Ali’s life has been brought to the screen in the past (Will Smith’s portrayal of him is top-notch stuff), this movie will explore a different time period in the fighter’s life. And while it won’t feature much boxing, it will still be a film about fighting.

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