A couple of months ago, we talked about how Academy Award winning director Ang Lee was going in a radical new direction for his next film by attempting to make a 3D boxing movie. While I was initially nonplussed by the idea, given it didn’t sound worthy of the years-long process Lee will sometimes use to craft his movies, I have warmed to it and can see the potential. Luckily screenwriter Peter Morgan, who wrote Ron Howard’s well-reviewed, recently released Formula One-centered movie Rush, recently spoke with the DailyMail and offered a few details about how Lee is planning on approaching some of the greatest boxing matches in history.
“It’s a look at how brutal the confrontations were between [Muhammad] Ali and [Joe] Frasier,” Morgan said. “They were marked by how aggressive Ali was towards Frazier out of the ring. He taunted and belittled him.” For his visual research, Morgan will be watching the athletes’ three landmark bouts, including the Fight of the Century and the Thrilla in Manilla, as well as other heavyweight matches of the era. There were quite a bit to choose from.
“Ang wants to work with 3D technology that will make an audience feel as if they’re inside the ring,” he explained. That sounds perfectly fine, and it would create quite an immersive experience for audience members. But Lee also wants something a bit more out of the box.
Morgan says the director wants to use actual footage of the fights, incorporating the undetermined cast members into the action digitally. I’m all for making things as realistic as possible, but this seems almost blasphemous for some reason. Wouldn’t it almost be easier for all involved just to recreate the shots as closely as possible? For some reason, all I can picture is Tom Hanks’ Polar Express character trying to start a fight with someone. But if anybody can pull it off, there’s a good chance it’s the guy who won Oscars for directing both Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi, two great films whose reductive pre-release punchline statuses couldn’t take away their glory.
Morgan said he won’t be finished with the screenplay until next year, so there’s no telling when we’d actually see this feature come together. But with boxing, particularly Floyd Mayweather fights, reemerging in the public consciousness, Lee doesn’t have to worry about the subject matter becoming irrelevant in the meantime. As if Muhammad Ali could ever be irrelevant. If nothing else, this project sounds a thousand times better than that Raging Bull sequel that was being mulled over last year (that film, which will be released soon, is called The Bronx Bull, and is no longer a sequel).
Now, if you want to see some real boxing, just wait for Christmas, when you can watch Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone duke it out in Peter Segal’s Grudge Match. I’m kidding! Just watch the full Thrilla in Manilla fight below.