Weston’s Christopher Plummer stars in ‘Muhammad Ali’ biopic

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Muhammed Ali was known for his fights in the ring, but a new movie aims to show the drama behind the boxer’s fight with the U.S. military.

Beginning Saturday, Oct. 5, HBO Films will present “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” which follows the debate and deliberations of the Supreme Court justices who were called to take up Ali’s conscientious objector case.

The case, which was decided by the Supreme Court in 1971 (the same year Ali battled Joe Frazier in an epic match-up), began in the 1960s when Ali refused to be drafted, based on religious opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1967, he was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to prison. The champion boxer appealed, even as he was stripped of his titles and barred from boxing for several years, thus leading to the judicial showdown in the country’s highest court.

The film, which features archival footage of Ali during that time, was directed by Stephen Frears, with a screenplay by Shawn Slovo, based on the book of the same name by Howard Bingham and Max Wallace.

The cast includes Weston resident Christopher Plummer, who portrays Justice John Harlan II, as well Frank Langella, who is Justice Warren E. Burger in the film – two of the pivotal voices in the final decision. In an earlier interview, Plummer offers some of his thoughts on the case and his depiction of Harlan.

Plummer is well-known to local audiences, in addition to his fans around the world. He has appeared in productions at the Westport Country Playhouse, and is a supporter of the longstanding theater. He visited the Wilton Library in 2010 to talk about his memoir, “In Spite of Myself.” Last year, he participated in a screening of the movie, “Beginners,” for which he earned an Oscar, at the Ridgefield Playhouse, where he also took part in a question-and-answer session. He also has lent his talents and support to other area organizations, such as the Westport Library and Shakespeare on the Sound.

HBO will show the movie twice this weekend, and continue to air it more than a dozen times in October. You can see the full schedule here.

Christina Hennessy

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