AFI Movie Club: ALI – American Film Institute
Ali Film Still - Will Smith


AFI Movie Club: ALI

ALI stars Will Smith in the title role and features AFI Trustee Jada Pinkett Smith as Sonji Roi. Will and Jada have been key supporters of AFI through the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation – with an emphasis on supporting and promoting female and nonbinary filmmakers through grants to AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women and Young Women in Film.

Watch AFI alum Randy McKinnon (Class of 2017) announce the film:

Movie Trivia about ALI

-DID YOU KNOW originally Will Smith did not want to take on the role of Muhammad Ali because he was concerned about not doing justice to the boxing legend? Muhammad Ali and his family even asked Smith to take the part, but the star was not convinced until director Michael Mann laid out a plan on how to tell the story and how to prepare Smith for the part. 

-DID YOU KNOW with a year of preparation for the role, Will Smith added 35 pounds of muscle through workouts and weight training? 

-DID YOU KNOW Will Smith also went to boxing school for the role? He spent six months learning to become a fighter and then six months specifically learning to fight like Muhammad Ali.   

-DID YOU KNOW according to Will Smith, when learning to fight like Ali for the role, he met with a neurobiologist to explain the workings of the human brain to better recreate the motion of the legendary boxer? The neurobiologist had Smith watch different moves of Ali’s on a loop in a dark room for hours at a time so that each move would burn neuro passages in Smith’s brain. 

-DID YOU KNOW Will Smith worked with a dialect coach and went through Islamic studies to fully immerse himself into the character of Muhammad Ali? 

-DID YOU KNOW Muhammad Ali’s boxing trainer Angelo served as a boxing technical advisor during the filming of the movie?  

-DID YOU KNOW to become Howard Cosell in the movie, Jon Voight has said that he had to undergo six hours of makeup, often beginning at 3 a.m.? Voight said if any of the prosthetics were put on incorrectly, it could take up to an hour to fix.  

-DID YOU KNOW the film also features a number of professional boxers, including Michael Bentt as Sonny Liston, James Toney as Joe Frazier and Charles Shufford as George Foreman? 

-DID YOU KNOW to make the fight sequences look as realistic as possible, the production used both high-definition and low-resolution VHS cameras and simultaneously shot both the left and right sides of the action? 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-What does Muhammad Ali mean to you?
-What made Muhammad Ali one of the most iconic boxers in history?
-Muhammad Ali lost his title, lost his boxing license and almost went to jail because of his principles. Do you think his beliefs would be received differently today?
-What is the significance of Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell’s relationship?
-How did Will Smith’s extensive preparation enhance his performance in the film?
-Why does the film ALI continue to resonate nearly 20 years after it was released?
-How would you rate ALI?

In this exclusive AFI Archive video, director Michael Mann talks about ALI:

New to AFI Movie Club? Want to learn more?

AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

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