Ali (film)

Ali (film)

Infobox Film
name = Ali

image_size =
caption = Theatrical poster
director = Michael Mann
producer = Jon Peters
James Lassiter
Paul Ardaji
writer = Michael Mann
Eric Roth
Stephen J. Rivele
Christopher Wilkinson
narrator =
starring = Will Smith
Jon Voight
Jamie Foxx
Mario Van Peebles
Ron Silver
Jeffrey Wright
Jada Pinkett Smith
music = Pieter Bourke
Lisa Gerrard
cinematography = Emmanuel Lubezki
editing = William Goldenberg
Lynzee Klingman
Stephen E. Rivkin
Stuart Waks
distributor = Sony
released = December 25, 2001
(United States)
runtime = Theatrical cut: 159 minutes
Director's cut: 165 minutes
country = USA
language = English
budget = $107,000,000
gross = $87,713,825 (worldwide)
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id = 1:249601
imdb_id = 0248667

"Ali" is a 2001 American biographical film directed by Michael Mann. The film tells the story of boxing icon Muhammad Ali (played by Will Smith) from 1964 to 1974 featuring his capture of the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, his conversion to Islam, criticism of the Vietnam War, banishment from boxing, his return to fight Joe Frazier in 1971, and, lastly, his reclaiming the title from George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle fight of 1974. The movie also discusses the great social and political upheaval in the United States following the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.


The movie was written by Gregory Allen Howard, Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Eric Roth and Michael Mann. The original script by Howard and Rivele was significantly modified by Roth and Mann. Howard was originally commissioned to write an Ali script by producer Jon Peters in 1994, but it was never produced.

Will Smith spent approximately one year learning all aspects of Ali's life. These included boxing training, Islamic studies and dialect training (to help him speak like Ali). Smith has said that his portrayal of Ali is his proudest work to date.

One of the selling points of the film is the realism of the fight scenes. Smith worked alongside boxing promoter Guy Sharpe from SharpeShooter Entertainment and his lead fighter Ross Kent to get the majority of his boxing tips for the film. All of the boxers in the film are in fact former or current world heavyweight champions. It was quickly decided that 'Hollywood fighting' - passing the fist (or foot) between the camera and the face to create the illusion of a hit - would not be used in favor of actual boxing. The only limitation placed upon the fighters was for Charles Shufford (who plays George Foreman). He was permitted to hit Will Smith as hard as he could, so long as he did not actually knock the actor out.

Smith had to gain a significant amount of weight to look the part of Muhammad Ali. His current physique is due to the weight gains he had to make for "Ali".


*Will Smith - Cassius Clay Jr./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/Khalilah Ali
*Michael Michele - Veronica Porsche Ali
*Joe Morton - Chauncey Eskridge
*Paul Rodriguez - Dr. Ferdie Pacheco
*Bruce McGill - Bradley
*Barry Shabaka Henley - Herbert Huhammad
*Ross Kent - Joe Frazier
*Giancarlo Esposito - Cassius Clay Sr.
*Laurence Mason - Luis Sarria
*LeVar Burton - Martin Luther King Jr.
*Albert Hall - Elijah Muhammad
*David Cubitt - Robert Lipsyte


"Ali" opened on December 25, 2001 and grossed a total of $14.7 million in 2,446 theaters on its opening weekend. The film went on to gross a total of $87.7 million worldwide. The film holds a 67 percent "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

The film had mixed reviews with the acting being well received by critics in general. Roger Ebert derided the film with two stars in his review for the "Chicago Sun-Times", and mentioned, "it lacks much of the flash, fire and humor of Muhammad Ali and is shot more in the tone of a eulogy than a celebration".cite news | last = Ebert | first = Roger | coauthors = | title = "Ali" | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = Chicago Sun-Times | date = December 25, 2001 | url = | accessdate = 2008-01-15 ] In "Variety" magazine, Todd McCarthy wrote, "The director's visual and aural dapplings are strikingly effective at their best, but over the long haul don't represent a satisfactory alternative to in-depth dramatic scenes; one longs, for example, for even one sequence in which Ali and Dundee discuss boxing strategy or assess an opponent", but did have praise for the performances: "The cast is outstanding, from Smith, who carries the picture with consummate skill, and Voight, who is unrecognizable under all the makeup but nails Cosell's distinctive vocal cadences".cite news | last = McCarthy | first = Todd | coauthors = | title = "Ali" | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = Variety | date = December 16, 2001 | url = | accessdate = 2008-01-15 ] "USA Today" gave the film two and half stars out of four and claimed that, "for many Ali fans, the movie may be good enough, but some perspective is in order. The documentaries "A.K.A. Cassius Clay" and the Oscar-winning "When We Were Kings" cover a lot of the same ground and are consistently more engaging".cite news | last = Clark | first = Mike | coauthors = | title = Despite hype, "Ali" isn't the greatest | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = USA Today | date = December 31, 2001 | url = | accessdate = 2008-01-15 ]

In the "New York Times", Elvis Mitchell proclaimed "Ali" to be a "breakthrough" film for Mann, that it was his "first movie with feeling" and that "his overwhelming love of its subject will turn audiences into exuberant, thrilled fight crowds".cite news | last = Mitchell | first = Elvis | coauthors = | title = Master of the Boast, King of the Ring, Vision of the Future | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = New York Times | date = December 25, 2001 | url = | accessdate = 2008-01-15 ] J. Hoberman, in his review for the "Village Voice", felt that the "first half percolates wonderfully — and the first half hour is even better than that. Mann opens with a thrilling montage that, spinning in and out of a nightclub performance by Sam Cooke, contextualizes the hero in his times", concluded that, "Ali's astonishing personality is skillfully evoked but, in the end, remains a mystery".cite news | last = Hoberman | first = J | coauthors = | title = Fight Songs | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = Village Voice | date = December 26, 2001 | url =,hoberman,31031,20.html | accessdate = 2008-01-15 ]


*Black Reel Awards
**Best Original Soundtrack: (Winner)
**Best Supporting Actor: "Jamie Foxx" (Winner)
**Best Supporting Actress: Nona Gaye (Winner)
**Best Film: (Nominated)
**Best Actor: "Will Smith" "(Nominated)"
**Best Film Poster: "(Nominated)"
**Best Song From a Film: "R. Kelly"-"The World's Greatest" "(Nominated)"
**Best Screenplay Adapted or Original: Gregory Allen Howard "(Nominated)"

*Broadcast Film Critics Association
**Best Actor: Will Smith (Nominated)
**Best Picture: (Nominated)
**Best Supporting Actor: Jon Voight (Nominated)

*Chicago Film Critics
**Best Supporting Actor: Jon Voight (Nominated)

*ESPY Awards
**Best Sport Movie

*Image Awards
**Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture: Jamie Foxx (winner)
**Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture: Will Smith (nominated)
**Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture: Jada Pinkett Smith (nominated)
**Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture: Mario Van Peebles (nominated)


Two anachronisms appear in the film. In one scene, showing Will Smith on his Miami balcony, a Miami Metrorail train can clearly be seen passing in the background. The Metrorail, however, was not built until 1984, after the scene was set. In another scene, in which Will Smith lands at an airstrip in Zaire, a 1999 Land Rover Discovery is clearly visible, even though the scene takes place in the 1970s.


After the theatrical version was released on DVD, Mann revisited his film again with a new cut. He took out approximately 20 minutes of footage and put 30 minutes of previously unseen footage back in. The director claimed that the politics of the times are more the focus.


External links

*imdb title|id=0248667|title=Ali
*amg movie|id=1:249601|title=Ali
* [ excerpts from Production Notes]
* [ "Senses of Cinema" review]
* [ "Michael Mann and Will Smith in the Ring With Ali"] "New York Times" article
* [ An interview with the film's cinematographer] Emmanuel Lubezki

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