We have all heard some crazy stories of big-time movie stars gaining or cutting loads of weight to fill an upcoming role. We think of a 45-year-old Hugh Jackman getting ridiculously cut for his Wolverine Roles, Jared Leto losing nearly half his body weight for Dallas Buyers Club or Mike Myers gaining 45 stone to play Fat Bastard in Austin Powers 2. Footage has come to light recently from nearly twenty years ago when Will Smith was getting into shape and condition to play the greatest boxer who ever lived: Muhammad Ali.
Smith reportedly stacked 35 pounds onto his 6’2” frame over two years to play the heavyweight role. He shot from 185 pounds up to more than 220, an increase of nearly 20% which is huge. Smith reportedly turned down the role for eight years before finally giving in. It’s lucky for us that he did because it was one of the best portrayals in modern cinema history.
The clip shows Smith in boxing training, an aspect of the role preparation that he said was one of the hardest. In addition to this, he lifted weights and boxed and did a lot of early morning miles on the road. Sugar Ray Leonard’s ex-trainer and fight choreographer, Darrell Foster said Smith began training for the role in February 2000. “He was out of shape,” says Foster.
Director Michael Mann recalls how perfectly Smith encapsulated the role saying, “He’s made himself into a boxer. We box. We don’t do stuntmen. We don’t do false punches.”
During the clip we can see Smith going through a number of different combinations in preparation for the role. Smith gets progressively better, faster and cleaner as the clip progresses which is pretty incredible. He goes from someone with minimal boxing experience to someone who you really wouldn’t want to mess with, within a few months.