Academy Award nominated director Stephen Frears is developing Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight at HBO Films. While the Michael Mann-Will Smith starring Ali painted a broader picture of the pugilist and featured quite a lot of boxing, this story focuses on Ali the conscientious objector to the Vietnam War and the ensuing 'fight' with the US government. In the first round of casting on the project, Christopher Plummer and Frank Langella have stepped into the ring. Now, which one is playing Ali?

According to THR, the two heavyweight actors will both play Supreme Court Justices, Plummer as Supreme Court Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan II and Langella as Chief Justice Warren Burger (a much more reasonable name and title). The pair are phenomenal actors and quite the catch for Frears' film, with Plummer nominated and likely to win Best Supporting Actor at this year's Academy Awards for his work in Beginners and Langella nominated for the Best Actor only a few years ago for Frost/Nixon. I'm not sure having them on the bench as Supreme Court Justices is really the best way to showcase or utilize their talent (these roles are usually little more than bickering and gavel smashing) but it certainly adds more prestige to the budding project.

Based on a script from Shawn Slovo the film largely takes place during the ten years that followed Ali being drafted into the US Army (1966). The boxer, who converted to Islam two years earlier, cited that the conflict was against his religious beliefs. After he refused to step forward at the armed services induction in 1967 he was arrested and soon found guilty. A series of appeals led him to the Supreme Court (the case notably Clay v. United States, not Ali) and his 'greatest fight.' My favorite Ali quote from the dust-up (and there are many gems),
"Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?"

The film is still looking for the right actor to play Ali and it's too bad that Attack the Block standout John Boyega (even if a bit young) is already signed on to play a Mike-Tyson-like fighter for Spike Lee in HBO's Da Brick. My other suggestion, after seeing him ooze charisma in Chronicle would be Michael B. Jordan. Whomever the cast in the lead role, HBO and Frears have started the ball rolling in the right direction with Plummer and Langella.

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