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Monday, 23 October, 2000, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Ali film 'gets green light'
Will Smith
Will Smith is back on to play Ali
A biopic of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali will go ahead after lead actor Will Smith and director Michael Mann agreed to pay cuts, according to reports.

Last week Columbia Pictures chairwoman Amy Pascal threatened to shelve the project, to be called Ali, because of concerns that Mann would go over budget.

Mann, director of the Oscar-nominated The Insider, persuaded the studio to raise the budget to $110m (76m), unusually high for a sports movie.

Columbia said in a statement: "We are pleased that we could successfully work with all involved to reach an understanding that will allow a great actor and a talented director to team up and tell the story of one of the best-known men in the world."

After meetings with studio executives, Mann, Smith and producer Jon Peters agreed to:

  • Pay for any costs that run over the budget,
  • Reduce their upfront fees,
  • Lower their share of foreign profits, and
  • Cut pages and locations from the film's script.

Ali, who has given the project his blessing, reportedly singled out Smith as the only actor who could portray him on the big screen.

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali reportedly picked Will Smith to take the lead
The star of blockbusters Men in Black and Independence Day, Smith has spent nearly six months training with Ali to get in shape to play the former heavyweight champion.

He reportedly earns $20m (13.8m) a movie with an additional 20% of the studio's revenue after the first $100m (69m), according to the Los Angeles Times.

He was ranked the 10th most bankable Hollywood star in a recent celebrity survey.

The paper also reported that Mann was to receive $6m (4.1m) up front for Ali, against a percentage of the gross takings of the film.

Production on Ali is scheduled to start in January 2001.

See also:

18 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Ali film 'on the ropes'
18 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Men in Black win ratings battle
09 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Roberts heads Hollywood hot list
29 Feb 00 | Brit Awards
Will gets jiggy at the Brits
05 Sep 99 | Tom Brook
Rappers move into the movies
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