Spike Lee Revealed Why Will Smith Rejected Him For “Ali” Movie

Posted On : November 18, 2015

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Spike Lee is never one to bite his tongue and that’s why at the time of the Ali movie release when he was asked about if he had been interested in directing the movie about the legendary boxing champ he spoke up and spoke out. Spike let the cat outta the bag about what really went down when he met with Will Smith to discuss the possibility of him directing Will in the film and here’s is what Spike said:

“I wanted to do it [the Ali movie], but Will didn’t want me to direct it. Columbia and Sony had a list and Will had a list. I met with Will and his manager. The first thing Will said was, ‘So Spike, how can you expand your vision?’ When he asked that I knew I was out.”

Director of "Ali" movie, Michael Mann
Director of “Ali” movie, Michael Mann

I guess Spike’s intuition was correct, because he ended up not getting the gig and the job ultimately went to director, Michael Mann. Spike said he thinks that Will thought his style of directing would have made the movie too militant. Ali was distributed by Columbia Pictures and word on the Old School curb is that there was a deliberation over wether the job was going to go to Spike, or Michael Mann, and that the final decision came from Will Smith.
will smith aliAfter the film came out, Spike was taking shots at it before the ending credits even started rolling, LOL. He was quoted as saying “Few white directors can get our stuff right. Ali didn’t get it. I’m tired of other people documenting our history.”

If it is true that Will had the final say, do you think Will is right for wanting to give a more expansive recount of Ali’s life to reach a broader audience? Or do you think Spike is correct in his assessment about race playing a major factor in a director’s capability to properly portray certain types of movies?
will smith9Another thing that I find interesting is how much juice Will Smith has in Hollywood. Columbia Pictures was allegedly biting their nails hoping he wouldn’t pick Spike, but they still had to leave the decision up to him and they were allegedly relieved after Michael Mann was chosen once it was all said and done.

As far as I know, Will Smith never spoke publicly on this topic, but at least it looks like things are cool as a fan between him and Spike now. This is a more recent pic of them together at a 76ers vs. Knicks basketball game, showing that it’s never personal, it’s just business.
spike lee and will smith
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