The premium cable network is teaming with NBA All-Star LeBron James and Antoine Fuqua for an untitled documentary focusing on the boxing legend, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The project, which will include a mix of original footage and re-creations, will explore Ali’s greatest triumphs and comebacks. It will paint an intimate portrait of a man who, against all odds, repeatedly dreamed and achieved the impossible.
James and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Entertainment will exec produce alongside Fuqua’s Fuqua Films. Production on the multi-part feature-length documentary has already begun. Fuqua (Southpaw, Training Day) will direct. The project, HBO’s first feature-length original, will debut on HBO at a date to be determined.
The film is produced in partnership with the Muhammad Ali family estate and coordinated through Jamie Salter, chairman and CEO of the Authentic Brands Group, the majority stakeholder of the Muhammad Ali Brand. The film will feature never-before-seen photos and footage from private collections of the Ali family and others.
“We are at a perfect time in history, and in our lives as Americans, to welcome this special documentary on Muhammad with LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Entertainment and HBO,” Ali’s wife, Lonnie Ali, said. “This documentary will have national and global appeal. I’m hopeful this documentary will engage the audience in a similar way Muhammad engaged his audience and fans. Without a doubt, Muhammad’s life journey provides simple yet extraordinary lessons for all of us, with perhaps the most important one being, to see and embrace the humanity in all people.”
James, Fuqua, Carter, Paul Wachter, Bill Gerber, Salter and Glen Zipper will exec produce; Sean Stuart will produce; and Steven Leckart will pen the script.
“Muhammad Ali is indisputably one of the most iconic and distinctive figures in the history of world sports,” HBO Miniseries president Kary Antholis said. “His impact resonates far beyond the boxing ring and is woven deep into the cultural and social tapestry of the second half of the 20th century. From the moment LeBron James told us of his deep visceral connection to Ali’s life and legacy, we were committed to helping him realize this film, and our enthusiasm has only grown as Antoine Fuqua has developed his compelling cinematic vision for telling one man’s incredible journey.”
The Ali documentary marks the latest small-screen project for James’ SpringHill banner. The company is also teaming with Bill Lawrence and NBC for a family comedy set in Cleveland. (James was born and raised in Ohio and plays for the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.) Additionally, SpringHill has a sports medicine drama in the works at NBC as well as a sports assistants comedy set up at CBS. James’ banner also exec produces Starz’s basketball-themed drama Survivor’s Remorse. On the film side, SpringHill also has Space Jam 2, starring James, in the works.
“It’s tough to put into words how much it means to me to be a part of this project honoring the legacy and telling the extremely important story of the great Muhammad Ali,” James said. “He transcended sports and used his platform to empower people, which paved the way for all athletes and people of every race and gender that came after him, myself included. It’s important that his story continues for generations to come, and it’s an honor for SpringHill Entertainment and me to be a part of this.”
Fuqua, meanwhile, has been ramping up his TV projects. In addition to a recent first-look deal with The Weinstein Co., his small-screen credits include CBS’ Training Day reboot, Audience Network’s Ice as well as multiple projects in development like Mario Puzo’s Omerta, the final book in the author’s mafia trilogy that started with The Godfather and The Last Don in addition to a medical drama set up at Showtime.
“Muhammad Ali meant many things to many people, and he is someone who had a deep impact on me from an early age,” Fuqua said. “Being given the opportunity to tell his story, both inside and outside of the ring, is a privilege, and a dream come true, and I couldn’t have found better partners than LeBron and HBO to help memorialize ‘The Greatest of All Time.'”
Ali, a three-time heavyweight champion of the world and global icon, died June 3. He was 74.