Ali world premiere proves a knockout

Review by Jack Foley

THE most famous boxer in the world muscled in on London's Leicester Square on Tuesday night, when Michael Mann's Ali received its world premiere in front of some of the leading faces in the sport.

Just 24 hours after the cast of The Lord of the Rings had cast their spell over the capital's movie-goers, Will Smith and co jetted in to deliver their own knockout blow to the West End in the company of some of the sport's leading lights, including Olympic gold medallist Audley Harrison and former boxing champions Henry Cooper, Barry McGuigan and Nigel Benn.

Other stars at the Royal premiere and subsequent party were Prince Charles, Bob Geldof, Radio One Breakfast Show DJ Sara Cox, David Baddiel, Harry Enfield, Frank Skinner, Lady Victoria Hervey, Ian Wright, Patrick Vieira and Tamara Beckwith.

Michael Mann's movie, which opens in the US over the Christmas period and in the UK early next year, centres on the years from 1964 to 1974, moving from the boxer's title win as Cassius Clay against Sonny Liston, to his exile for three years for refusing the Vietnam draft, to his legendary 'Rumble in the Jungle' against George Foreman. Early word on the film has been positive and it is believed that Smith, who put on two stone and had to train for a year to get the Ali physique, could be in the running for a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars.

The 33-year-old star, who reportedly flew back to his home country in his private jet at 2am following the after-screening party at the In and Out Club in Piccadilly, greeted hundreds of fans who had braved the cold weather to catch their second glimpse of the glitz of Hollywood in a week.

Asked whether he thought that his role warranted a nod from the Academy, Smith joked that if they offered one, he would take it, before paying tribute to the man he portrays and revealing that he would visit the set regularly to advise Smith on how to emulate his 'float like a butterfly, sting like a bee' style.

Ali, himself, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, was unable to attend the premiere for health reasons, but of the boxers who saw the film, reaction was largely favourable.

The film cost $100 million to make and the fight scenes have been expertly choreographed by former boxers such as Michael Bentt, James Toney and Charles Shufford, who assume roles in the movie. IndieLondon will deliver our verdict on the film as soon as we have seen it.