Shola Amoo is Directing a Film on Muhammad Ali’s Refusal to Serve in the Army

Shola Amoo is Directing a Film on Muhammad Ali's Refusal to Serve in the Army
Shora Amoo is directing a feature film centered on Muhammad Ali’s refusal to join the U.S. Army in 1967 during the Vietnam War.

Amoo will direct the Searchlight film based on a script by script by Philip Howze which is based on Leigh Montville’s “Sting Like a Bee: Muhammad Ali vs. The United States of America.”

The book centers on the cultural and political implications of Ali’s refusal of service in the military on the basis of his Islamic beliefs. It also shows the key moments in life in exile from the ring as he risks losing everything — his boxing license, his career, even his freedom as he’s forced to take a stand in a battle for racial equality.

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In 1964 at age 22, Ali won the heavyweight world championship over Sonny Liston. It was that fight in which he coined the infamous phrase, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” It was in that same year Ali changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964.

Two years later (1966), upon hearing that he had been drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, he famously said “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Viet Cong” and refused to be enlisted.

In 1967, he was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000, and banned from boxing for three years. Ali remained out of prison while his case was appealed and his conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971. He retired from boxing in 1981 and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome three years later.

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Ali, who died in 2016, has been depicted on film before, most notably by Will Smith in the 2001 biopic, Ali. The legendary boxer was also the subject of the 2019 documentary “What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali,” directed by Antoine Fuqua and released on HBO. Up next Regina King will make her feature directorial debut with One Night In Miami is a fictional account of an evening with iconic Black figures Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), as they gather to discuss civil rights and the cultural upheaval of the 1960s. Inspired by true events, the quartet of historical characters celebrate Ali’s latest boxing victory as the heavyweight champion of the world and discuss the civil rights movement led by Malcolm X at the time.

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