Based on a True Story: Ali

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In 1956, a boy was riding on a donkey across the Red Sea in Cecil B. DeMille’s classic retelling of The Ten Commandments. That boy, Jon Peters, was making his debut in Hollywood, and yet it was the start of a massively successful Hollywood career – most recently as a producer on the superhero movie Man of Steel.

But it was another superhero that spawned our story today.

Jim West. Or James T. West, the protagonist of the 1999 film Wild Wild West. It was while filming Wild Wild West that the movie’s star, Will Smith, gave a script that Jon had been working on since 1993 to the director, Barry Sonnenfield.

However, since Wild Wild West didn’t do so well in the box office, Jon’s script was put on the backburner until Sonnenfield officially dropped off of the project at the end of 1999. As the century turned, in February of 2000, director Michael Mann, who was fresh off of the Acadamy Award-nominated film The Insider, took over as director.

The film was given a budget of over $100 million dollars and Will Smith was set to star. The script that had started in 1993 as a biographical film about one of boxing’s greatest of all time, Ali was a go.

Will Smith spent the next year of his life training to be a boxer. He spent up to seven hours a day in the ring until, in January of 2001, Ali officially began filming.

The film that had been in the works for almost a decade took just under a year to get made as it opened on Christmas Day of 2001.

Ali was received well by critics even though it’d end up going on to be a monetary loss for the studio. Although it wasn’t a box office success by the numbers, Will Smith and Jon Voight would go on to be nominated for their own Academy Awards for the film for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.

After the film’s release, Will Smith would say it was the film he was most proud of as an actor. And it tells a very important story of a true legend: Muhammad Ali.

But how much of Ali was truth and how much was stretched for the film? Find out in this short story from Based on a True Story.

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