Ali was one of the key films of Will Smiths career. He played the legendary boxer and activist Mohammed Ali. The production wasn’t easy, from training to boxing to shooting in Africa. At one point, Smith himself fired crew members who abused a Mozambican production assistant and others who were protecting the racist.
Smith writes about the Ali production on his autobiography, will. Here’s why Smith fired the abusive crew while living up to Ali’s values.
Will Smith confronted racism on the set of Ali
When filming in Africa in 2001, racial tensions between white South Africans and local Mozambicans were still fresh. A crew member attacked a Mozambican production assistant by shoving his face into the bathroom toilet. The crew wanted to settle it internally, but Smith and Director Michael Mann agreed that the perpetrator had to go. The crew chief issued an ultimatum: “If he goes, we Everyone go, wrote Smith.
“The ‘everything’ he was talking about was about a hundred members of our South African crew,” Smith wrote. “If they left, it would close our movie – tens of millions of dollars down the drain. This was a potentially catastrophic threat. My heart was pounding; my mind was racing; I had promised Muhammad Ali that I would bring his story to the world. If I let the crew quit, the project could be doomed.”
Muhammed Ali inspired Will Smith to fire the racist crew member
Smith had no producer credit Alialthough his manager James Lassiter Did. Still, Smith was the star of the film and had the clout and man’s ear. He decided what Ali stood for, that letting the abusive crew member work on the film was unacceptable.
“This moment is the whole point,” Smith wrote. “Muhammad Ali has given up everything precisely for this purpose. Fuck this movie. Ali would never want his film to come out on the back of a seventeen year old boy’s head in a toilet.”
Smith described his mental state as “crystal clear.” He even used strong language to reply to the crew’s ultimatum.
“‘Then you all moms can go home,’ I said,” he wrote. “‘I will spend every penny of my fee to fly a crew from the US. But what we won’t have is that in Muhammed Ali’s film, people’s heads are going to be stuck in toilets. Walk. At home.’
Most of the ‘Ali’ crew stayed
Smith was willing to put his money where his mouth is. By 2001 he had the personal means to hire new crew members after hits independence Day and men in black. Would it have come to this Ali would have continued production, but in the end few crew members stood by the perpetrator.
“Michael was behind me 100 percent,” Smith wrote. “In the end, only about 20 percent of the crew left. In the end, Michael and I split the surplus. It was a few million dollars between us, but it felt like a no-brainer.”
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https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/will-smith-fired-racist-ali-crew-members-abusing-black-pa.html/ Will Smith fired racist “Ali” crew members for abusing a black PA