LAWRENCE (KSNT) – A University of Kansas (KU) professor is looking to begin work on a new project based on the life of boxing champion Muhammad Ali.
Kevin Willmott is a professor of film & media at KU who recently won critical acclaim after working as a writer on the movie “BlacKkKlansman” and winning the 2019 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Willmott is now working on his next project which will delve into the life of Ali in an eight-part series on NBC’s Peacock streaming service, according to the university.
Willmott said he has been in contact with actor and producer Morgan Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment, which owns the rights to “Ali: A Life,” to start work on a script, according to the university. However, no star or release date has been reported.
“I chose eight different fights Ali had, using the book as my source material,” Willmott said. “They’re not all bouts in the ring. One of them will be his struggle with Parkinson’s disease.”
Willmott said this new project will be a modern biopic.
“The old style is cradle-to-grave,” Willmott said. “Now you try to be a lot more selective and pick certain parts of their life.”
Willmott said the series will go in-depth into Ali’s complicated relationship with “Smokin” Joe Frazier for its racial implications, according to the university.
“There was a love-hate relationship – hatred from Joe Frazier’s standpoint,” Willmott said. “Ali didn’t hate anybody. He got angry at people like Floyd Patterson and Ernie Terrell that wouldn’t call him by the name Muhammad Ali, and he punished them in the ring. Ali was a bit ahead of the game in terms of the Black pride movement. It was about starting to connect to our African heritage.”
The university reported that Willmott has other projects in the works based on historical events. These include a script on the first black tennis star, Arthur Ashe, and another project on the relationship between jazz musicians Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington and Lena Horne.