The film will follow the remarkable life and times of George Foreman, from Olympic Gold medalist to World Heavyweight champion, the Rumble in the Jungle fight with Muhammad Ali in Zaire, to finding his faith, retiring and becoming a preacher. When financial hardship hits his family and church, he steps back in the ring and regains the championship at age 45, the oldest heavyweight champion in boxing history.
Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World is based on the remarkable true story of one of the greatest comebacks of all time and the transformational power of second chances. Fueled by an impoverished childhood, Foreman channeled his anger into becoming an Olympic Gold medalist and World Heavyweight Champion, followed by a near-death experience that took him from the boxing ring to the pulpit. But when he sees his community struggling spiritually and financially, Foreman returns to the ring and makes history by reclaiming his title, becoming the oldest and most improbable World Heavyweight Boxing Champion ever. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker George Tillman Jr. from a story by Dan Gordon and Frank Baldwin & George Tillman Jr, and a screenplay by Baldwin & Tillman, the film stars Khris Davis (Judas and the Black Messiah) as Foreman and also stars Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker as Foreman’s trainer and mentor Doc Broadus.
AFFIRM Films presents a Mandalay Pictures production, a film by George Tillman Jr., Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World. The film stars Khris Davis, Jasmine Mathews, Sullivan Jones, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., John Magaro, with Sonja Sohn and Forest Whitaker. Directed by George Tillman Jr. Screenplay by Frank Baldwin & George Tillman Jr. Screen story by Dan Gordon and Frank Baldwin & George Tillman Jr. Produced by David Zelon.
The executive producers are George Foreman, Peter Guber, Wendy S. Williams, and Henry Holmes. The directors of photography are John Matysiak and David Tattersall, BSC. The production designer is Clay A. Griffith. The editors are Alex Blatt and Craig Hayes, ACE. The costume designer is Mary Claire Hannan. Music by Marcelo Zarvos.
Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association for some sports violence. The film will be released in theaters nationwide on April 28, 2023.
The greatest comeback story of all time comes to the screen in AFFIRM Films’ Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World. “The story of George Foreman – and the story of America – is the story of second and third chances,” says Big George Foreman – father, grandfather, great-grandfather, minister to Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, entrepreneur, and two-time heavyweight champion of the world. “You’re always gonna come back. There’s never a reason to say I quit, I give up, that’s the end. You can always keep going and keep trying. You never have to give up on yourself.”
“A lot of people might feel like their current circumstances are the only circumstances they’re ever gonna have. They don’t believe that they can be freed from the framework of that. But it’s not true,” adds Khris Davis, who plays the legend. “Mr. Foreman experienced so many different types of limiting circumstances and broken free of those. He left the Fifth Ward in Houston – that alone, many people think is impossible. He made it to the Olympics in one year after he started boxing. It’s impossible. He won gold. It’s impossible. He became the oldest heavyweight champion in the world. It’s impossible. All along the way, people told him he couldn’t do it. He broke free.”
Foreman’s unbelievable and inspiring story – his rise to fame in the ring, his spiritual rebirth, and his improbable and inspiring return that saw him reclaim his title – is directed by George Tillman Jr., who says that the boxer’s miraculous comeback was only possible through the greater miracle of his transformation. “This the story of how someone can completely change their life from being one way to being another,” says Tillman. “Not only did he change his personality and how he saw life, he changed the way he thought as a boxer, he changed from being selfish to being selfless… it became in every aspect of his life. And I thought, wow, you really can change! You really can see a difference in this man.”
The film, which also stars Forest Whitaker as Foreman’s trainer and mentor Doc Broadus, is directed by George Tillman Jr. from a story by Dan Gordon and Frank Baldwin & George Tillman Jr, and a screenplay by Baldwin & Tillman. The film is produced by David Zelon.
The film is shepherded to theaters through AFFIRM Films. Rich Peluso, executive vice president and head of the label, notes, “What attracted me to George Foreman’s story is the alignment with many of our previous films. Each of our movies served as an incredible resource and tool to encourage, uplift, and inspire people. We always want to develop, produce, and distribute movies that matter.”
Tillman says that one of the reasons he was drawn to direct the film was the note of spirituality that runs through his work. “My first film, Soul Food, was inspired by my African-American family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The soul food there came after church,” he says. “I don’t like to hit things on the nose too much, but throughout my career, most of the themes have dealt with family, like in Soul Food, or doing the right thing, like in Men of Honor and Notorious, or standing up to brutality, as in The Hate U Give. All of those films are about doing the right thing, finding the right place, healing and family – that all comes from the spirituality. And this was the first time I tackled that head-on.”
Peluso adds that the sports films from AFFIRM Films have had a little something extra. “My favorite films that I worked on tend to be our sports dramas,” he notes. “Soul Surfer, When the Game Stands Tall, Overcomer, Facing the Giants –it’s been an incredible adventure to see these movies tell stories that change hearts and lives. In this new George Foreman film, his incredible story true story really resounds with audiences. It is the story of an underdog. It is the story of someone who rises up over incredible human conditions. It’s aspirational. There are parts of George’s life that anyone can borrow from as a model for how to deal with difficulty and challenges in their own life. And when audiences encounter these stories, especially when God intersects with the lives of people, they need to know that the story is true. And that’s what’s so exciting about the George Foreman story: it is incredible, impossible, but also true.”
Thrilled to have his story told on the big screen, Foreman says, “The arts speak greater for you than you can speak for yourself, because one day, I’ll no longer be on the scene – but the story will be told, and there’s nothing like being told in the movie.”
Zelon agrees. “George’s story has been well-documented both in documentaries and books and interviews, but there’s nothing that can reach people like a movie,” he says. “I’m a pretty avid sports fan, so I knew about George coming back and winning the title. I knew about the grill. But I didn’t know what drove him. I didn’t know anything about his conversation with God. All of that was new to me.”
“Working with the real George Foreman was so amazing,” says Tillman, the director of the film. “When I met him for the first time, I was blown away. Here’s a man that I’ve been watching for a very long time – my favorite fight of all time was his fight against Ron Lyle. After watching him and Ali, and Joe Frazier in 1973, and the Olympics, seeing the guy in person was amazing.”
“We all have things that we believe in other than ourselves. How does that change you and your perspective?” Tillman continues. “For George, it was spirituality. It changed the sense that the self-worth that he was looking for; he found it by being selfless. At one point, he was told, ‘No one in this family never amounted to anything,’ and George really took that to heart. At the beginning, it was all about using anger – using his fists, becoming heavyweight champion – to get the respect that he wanted. It turns out that he earned that respect when he turned his perspective around, when he was boxing to help others.”
Foreman grew up on the meanest streets in Houston, Texas. Underprivileged, malnourished – and a poor student, because he was a big kid who wasn’t getting enough calories – Foreman was dismissed. For Tillman, it’s a feeling he understood. “As a Black man, as an African-American director, I understand that feeling of being overlooked,” he says. “We have a scene in the film inspired by something George said – being in school, raising his hand, being passed over – he said that was the most hurtful thing. How can anybody write me off, just because of the way I dress? George said they didn’t have any money or food. He was always hungry. So when the teachers saw that he was poor and didn’t have the clothes to reflect that they had money, the teachers assumed that George wouldn’t prevail later in life. Those are the kind of things that stuck with him. It’s universal, but also something I was able to identify with as a young African-American man growing up: you always try to find something to stand out. How do you be seen? How do you get noticed?”
Foreman’s way of standing out would make itself clear. “Boxing was an afterthought. I wanted to be a better streetfighter,” Foreman explains. “I took up boxing so I could go back to Houston, Texas and just scare everyone so much that they wouldn’t want to fight me. And next thing you know, I’m the golden glove champion, an Olympic champion, and then heavyweight champion of the world. Boxing took over my life, just one thing after another.”
Of all of his many victories in the ring, Foreman ranks his Olympic gold medal bout above all the rest. Forget it being a dream-come-true – Foreman says the young man who won gold didn’t even dare to dream. “I’ve had a lot of boxing matches, a lot of victories, but nothing has come close to that,” he says. “I was a 19-year-old boy who never had a dream to come true.”
Turning professional, Foreman earned a reputation for being an extremely hard puncher, a dangerous opponent – and an aloof, sneering champion outside of the ring. He became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, defeating Joe Frazier and successfully defending his title against José Roman and Ken Norton before facing Muhammad Ali in the legendary fight known as the Rumble in the Jungle.
Foreman had been favored in the fight, having defeated all of the boxers who had defeated Ali. But Ali offered an unusual strategy: he took to the ropes and defended, taking unimaginable punishment from Foreman’s devastating punches – refusing to go down, taunting Foreman the whole time. “After about five rounds. I hit him hard, and he fell on me. I thought, ‘He’s gonna ask for mercy,’ but he said, ‘That all you got, George?’” Foreman recalls. “Things changed instantly. By the sixth round, I really realized I was in a boxing match.” A tired Foreman began to weaken, and in the eighth round, a fresh Ali won by knockout. It was not only Foreman’s first loss as a professional, following forty consecutive victories – it was the first time he had been on the canvas in his career.
He was determined to regain his title as quickly as possible – but life had other plans. “I embraced anger, and then revenge,” Foreman recalls. “‘I’ll get it back, kill everybody in my way.’ And I got to be the number one contender in the world again – back in the position I wanted to be. I was promised a title shot if I won one more fight – and I lost that fight on a decision.”
Following that fight with Jimmy Young, Foreman underwent a profound emotional and spiritual rebirth that changed everything. “I went back in the dressing room, and I had an experience with death – in a split second, I was dead and alive again. I saw blood on my face and my hand, and I screamed, ‘Jesus Christ is coming alive in me.’ And now, 45 years later, I’m still screaming. That changed everything.”
“George said to me, ‘I really want to do the movie because of what happened in the dressing room in Puerto Rico, after fighting Jimmy Young,’” says Tillman. “I think a lot of people didn’t believe that what he saw changed his life. For me, being a man who grew up in church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, seeing the spirituality, seeing people catching the Holy Ghost, catching the spirit, seeing how people change, I believed what he felt there. He was so convicted coming out of that. There was something that happened that changed him. There was a higher being. I thought that was something that had to be embraced that I don’t see very often in movies today.”
For ten years, Foreman didn’t make a fist, much less pick up the gloves. “I stopped boxing because I was trying to come to grips with something that was real to me. I became an evangelist, of which I am now at The Church of The Lord Jesus Christ, and I just spent my whole time preaching – street corners, television shows, my own ministry in Houston, Texas. That’s all I did, and raised kids. That’s what I spent 10 years doing, never thinking that I’d ever put on boxing trunks again. I thought it was all over.”
Then, in 1987 – 8 days shy of ten years since what he thought was his last fight – Foreman returned to the ring as a professional. He was pushing 40 and was out of shape, weighing 267 pounds (and that was down from the 315 that marked his heaviest). He would attempt a comeback. The odds didn’t just seem long – the idea seemed impossible. Foreman minces no words about why he came back. “I was broke. I came back for the money,” he explains. With a family, a ministry, and a youth center to support, Foreman knew what he had a responsibility to do. But in the ten years away from the sport, Foreman had become a different man, which made him a different fighter. “The first time around, I thought I was the toughest; I knew I was the hardest puncher around. The second time around, I was a grandfather. I knew I had to behave, to do all the stuff I’d been telling my kids to do. When I came back, boxing was a profession. It wasn’t about winning and losing; it was about earning. You’ve got to feed your family and they do not eat excuses. I’d have preferred to have been a golfer and come back to golfing, but I was a boxer. You need a profession, and boxing was mine.”
As Foreman fought, he proved he was no sideshow act. He slimmed down, got in shape – and proved that he could still pack one of the hardest punches in boxing history. Seven years after his return, with dozens of victories against highly rated opponents, he earned the respect of the boxing community, and eventually, a title shot – which he won by knockout. He was 45 years, 299 days old – the oldest champion of all time. The greatest comeback in history was complete.
For Tillman, it was more than just a boxing match, even more than a championship bout. “It’s almost like a spiritual awakening,” he says. “This was what was divined to happen. I watched that fight live, and I thought Moorer was winning the whole time. I thought it was over. Foreman was getting hit, getting hit – and all of a sudden, he comes out of nowhere. It’s just like life; it was what was meant to happen.”
Three years later, Foreman would lose the title in a controversial decision. Now a gracious man, Foreman accepted the defeat and retired from professional boxing for the final time at age 48.
To bring this miraculous story to the screen, Zelon brought in acclaimed filmmaker George Tillman Jr., whose most recent feature The Hate U Give connected with audiences and critics alike. “It’s so interesting – George Tillman can sit in a meeting, and he’s a very low- key, calm guy. He speaks low, quietly, thoughtfully,” says Zelon. “And then he gets on set, and he’s jumping all around, getting into it. When we were filming one of the fight sequences, he was on his feet, mirroring the moves in the ring. And then he goes back to quiet George.”
With Tillman on board, the filmmakers turned their attention to casting the role of George Foreman. But how to cast that role? “It was tough,” says Zelon. “The role starts at 17 years old, and goes to 45. He’s six-foot-four. George starts at 215 pounds, and goes to 315 pounds. And it was important to do that with one actor, playing it all the way through – it would be confusing to switch actors, but also, we also saw this as a tour de force role for an actor who could change so drastically physically; it would make the movie special. Our casting directors Mary Vernieu and Lindsay Graham Ahanonu were sure that they could find somebody that could play it all the way through. And they did, because they’re geniuses.”
The geniuses found actor Khris Davis. Best-known for his roles in Judas and the Black Messiah and Space Jam: A New Legacy, he recently played Biff Loman in “Death of a Salesman” on Broadway opposite Wendell Pierce, Sharon D Clarke, and André De Shields.
“We looked at hundreds of guys – we got so many tapes in. And then Khris Davis’s tape came in,” Zelon continues. “He had played a boxer, kind of a Jack Johnson character, in a play on the Lincoln Center Stage and won a bunch of awards for it. His acting skills were fantastic. And Khris has a really boyish, youthful-looking face, which was important to him playing young George. When he came in for his screen test, he just killed it. We thought, ‘Oh man, this guy is fantastic.’”
“Initially, what drew me to the story was that George went through so much hardship and still managed to achieve such greatness in his life,” says Davis. “Even before he knew he was great, there were still a lot of hints of his greatness. And he followed that path even without knowing. In a sense, he was guided by a higher power to step into his greatness.”
To play George Foreman required Davis to make two remarkable physical transformations. First, to play the young Foreman, he would have to watch every calorie and train his body. The actor may have played a boxer on stage, but playing the legendary George Foreman would be another thing entirely. “I’d never boxed before in my life,” he says. “When I first came into the gym, I didn’t know where my power was when I came to the heavy bag, couldn’t hit a speed bag to save my life. But working with Darrell Foster, who was a pro at the film’s boxing choreography, he got me right.” Foster worked with Davis first on teaching the actor how to box, then later to master Foreman’s specific mannerisms.
Midway through the film, events jump forward ten years. To play Foreman after his spiritual transformation, Davis would have to transform as well, putting on nearly 50 pounds. During an eight-week break in the filming, under the supervision of a dietician, Davis would take in up to 7,000 calories a day (when working out and boxing), going from 228 pounds to 275 in five weeks. And there was an added complication, says Zelon: “He’s a pescatarian – he doesn’t eat chicken or beef – and he’s allergic to shellfish and avocado. That cut out a lot of foods you would normally eat to gain weight!” Costumes had to wait to fit the actor’s new shape, as no one could know what his measurements would be. It took an extraordinary amount of trust in Davis, but Tillman says it was never in doubt. “Dedication was the key,” says Tillman. “He didn’t want anybody doing any stunt work for him, and he didn’t want to wear a fat suit. He wanted to do it all.” For Davis, just preparing to play George Foreman became a year-long commitment: learning to box, learning the specific choreography of the fights, training, and of course breaking down the scenes to play the role emotionally and honestly. It was clear to Tillman that Davis was embracing the opportunity. “That want – that’s something that every director loves, and that’s what I had in Khris Davis.”
Davis would have to learn every fight in the film – both the early fights and the comeback fights – before gaining the weight. “During the gain-weight break, we couldn’t put him in the ring enough to learn them, because he’d have burned too many calories – he’d have never gained the weight,” says Zelon. “He had to learn all the fights for both blocks one and two before we started shooting block one, so during the weight gain, all he was doing was walking through the fights, getting the footwork and remembering the punches.”
Davis embraced the challenge of imagining how different it would be to fight with fifty extra pounds. “He still had the same rhythms, the same style,” says Davis. “The difference is the weight. He’ll step a little slower, but he’s still a pit bull in the ring. For me, I had to learn to fight on my back foot a little bit more to indicate that I am slower.”
But in portraying Foreman, perhaps more important than achieving physical transformation is understanding his spiritual awakening. “His mother had spirituality. He didn’t have any,” notes Davis. “He essentially just wanted acceptance – to be loved and cared for, same things we all want – but was seeking it externally, so his spirit wasn’t fulfilled. When you lose the external things and you’re not grounded spiritually, you have nothing to stand on, yes? So he loses everything – and then, after a fight, he dies.” Foreman’s heart stops – but there’s even more going on. “He was in conversation with a higher power that was speaking to him in that moment,” Davis explains. “The higher power asked him if he believed, and he said yes. In that moment, a hand reached in and pulled him out, and he came to. And in that moment, he gave his life to God. He gave up boxing, gave up his money, gave up all his worldly possessions, and went inward to a spiritual condition and a spiritual relationship with God, until he got the call again.”
Perhaps the most important person in Foreman’s boxing life is his trainer and mentor, Doc Broadus, played in the film by Oscar® winner Forest Whitaker. “Right off the bat, Forest started asking about Doc Broadus – ‘Who is this man?’” says Tillman. “Forest connected with a young man who had shot a documentary about Doc Broadus, and put the clues together of who this man was – his history coming from World War II, his history being a boxer himself and helping young men out, He’s a beautiful person to work with and a true artist.”
“He was running a boxing program at the Job Corps in 1965. George came in and he became his mentor – a surrogate father in a way – as he trained,” says Whitaker. “They won the championship together. And when George finds God, and George decides to return to the ring, they reunite.
“When they met, George was a somewhat violent, angry young man, who Broadus sees great potential in – even finding potential in his anger,” Whitaker continues. “He nurtured him, allowed him to grow, allowed him to become what he ultimately became. For George’s mother, she was really so happy that Doc Broadus came into his life and changed the course of his future.” As Muhammad Ali, the filmmakers cast actor Sullivan Jones. When the two fighters met in Zaire for the Rumble in the Jungle, the then-challenger Ali taunted the champ constantly before the fight and kept it up during the bout. When Ali said, “We’re going to get it on because we don’t get along,” he meant it. But by the time of Foreman’s comeback, the two were best friends, with Foreman praising Ali as “a prophet, a hero, a revolutionary.”
Big George Foreman marks Sullivan Jones’s second time around playing The Greatest, after creating the role in Kemp Powers’s play “One Night in Miami” in Los Angeles in 2013. Why was he so excited return to play an older Ali? “Hello, he’s Muhammad Ali,” says Jones. “He’s the greatest of all time. He’s such an iconic character. I got a chance to meet some of his kin, which was pretty special. To play him at this level, in a studio movie, it’s a different ball game.”
Jones cites multiple ways that Ali had changed from the 22-year-old who celebrated his victory over Sonny Liston and became Muhammad Ali, and the 32-year-old who seeks to regain his title in Kinshasa, Zaire. The actor himself has a different perspective as well. “He definitely has a weightiness to him, physically and emotionally,” says Jones. “He’s more world-weary. He had been banned from boxing for three years because he decided not to go to Vietnam. He’d been beaten; he’d had his jaw broken. For me too – I’ve seen more of the world. Not to mention, when you’re 22, you’re young and spry, and now I’m approaching a dad bod.”
Tillman says that Jones’s approach speaks to his dedication and insightfulness as an actor. “When we started getting into rehearsals, we started digging deep, and Sullivan said to me, ‘I’m playing Ali from the videotape that I sent you.
That Ali is 1964 Ali. This is Ali in 1974.’ So we started working on the voice and slowing Ali down. This was an Ali who had fought many wars,” the director recalls. “That’s something that only comes when you have an actor who played him before, an actor who had met the Ali family, and who was really dedicated to the role.”
It’s exciting to play Ali, Jones says, because it’s a role that gives an actor complete freedom. “In most social interactions, you have to watch what you say. You have to consider what is the other person thinking? What can I say? What can I not say? But when you’re playing Muhammad Ali, anything that comes into your head, you say it. It’s amazing just to freestyle. That’s sort of what Ali was. Everything was on his sleeve.”
One of the most exciting challenges for Tillman would be to recreate several of Foreman’s famous bouts – and portray them as being clearly part of two different eras of the sport. “Boxing in the 60s and 70s had its own style – very loud, very flamboyant – that was very different from boxing in the 90s,” he notes. “The best visual approach for this story was to use George’s psychology at that time – what was he thinking, what was he feeling? I wanted to get into what it was like to be in the Fifth Ward, then to evolve with him when he gets into the Job Corps and when he became heavyweight champion. He’s always a young man trying to find his place and get respect. In that first half of the movie, he’s alone, in his own world. Later, when he realizes there’s a higher spirituality, there’s something out there greater than himself, our visual approach starts to change. He’s all about community, about other people, and from a visual perspective, we do the same thing.”
With the break in filming, Tillman says that much of his approach was as if he were making two different movies. “When we came back, Khris Davis was 270, 280, almost 290 pounds at that point. Bald head, completely different. And the lighting style and the visual style changed. The color palette changed; we were now in the 80s and the color started coming in, and the shorts, and the tighter outfits.
“But the thing that did not change is that we shot the boxing all the same way,” Tillman continues, “which was, how can we make it feel as distinctive as possible? Our idea was to follow the historical fights as close as we possibly can. We also tried not to try to have any spaces between the punches and the body – I wanted to do real punching and real boxing hits. How can I do that? Well, by getting real boxers who can take the punches from my actors. And the third most important thing was to be able to feel like we are actually in there, to capture the atmosphere. A lot of those early fights – Zaire, Puerto Rico – were outdoors. A lot of those fights had a very smoky atmosphere. So let us get in the ring, and let us follow it to be very specific as possible, but also show how it can change and evolve later on, with the color and the Vegas lights in 1994, when he fights Michael Moorer.”
Going into the ring required a specific strategy from the director and his DPs. “I tried not to shoot out as much as possible. I tried to get us in the ring,” he says. “I used a lot of anamorphic lenses, a lot of wide lenses, to let us feel it, to let us see the punches. That was my approach: following George and letting the audience feel like what it’s like to be there, subjectively, with him.”
Getting the camera in the ring had an important consequence: the punches had to be real. “You can’t fake it. You need a close up,” says Zelon. So not only did the filmmakers have to find people who resembled Joe Frazier, Michael Moorer – even Steve Zouskie, Foreman’s first opponent in his comeback – but they had to be boxers who could take a punch. “George was very specific – he wanted the boxers to look like the real people they were playing,” Zelon continues. “Finding guys who looked like the real fighters took us a long time.” The fights were choreographed by Darrell Foster, who had previously trained Will Smith to play Muhammad Ali. “I teach the actors how to fight for real,” he says. “They’re carrying their hands where fighters carry their hands. They defend themselves the way fighters would do normally in a fight. We spent months teaching them how to fight, how to take a punch, how to fake a punch. The only difference is moving the contact point, so that we’re not doing as much damage. When you’re filming, you’ve got to do it again and again and again, so you can’t really blast somebody like you would in a real fight. It’s basically sparring, but recreating fights of historical significance.”
With Davis, who had never boxed, Foster started from the ground up. “I started him like I would teach any other amateur fighter,” he says. “Balance, hand-eye coordination, how to defend, how to handle yourself in a ring. We’d work on mimicking George Foreman later.”
Foster’s training paid off. Not only did he teach Davis to box, but he built the actor’s cardio as well, which paid dividends in the photography. For Tillman to put the camera in the ring, up close to the actors, Davis would have to perform multiple times. “Several DPs told me that there would be no way to do it, because the boxers would get out of breath and we’d have to pause – we’d never get to the fights,” Tillman recalls. “So one of the things we did was build cardio, so the boxers could go a whole round – not just once, but five or six times.”
Foster worked with the real-life fighters brought in to play Foreman’s opponents as well. “We actually had to detrain them from how they fight,” says Foster. “They have to fight in the character’s performance way. Our Joe Frazier is a real fighter, but if you try to hit him with a right hand, he might do something different than what Joe Frazier did.” Tillman had chosen which fights, which rounds, and which specific punch sequences he wanted to capture, and had storyboarded them all. That’s when he started to wonder how he was going to pull this off. “How will the boxers learn this? By watching the video and by watching my cut edits of what I wanted?” he recalls. But then, Tillman saw Foster’s number system.
Foster assigned each punch a number – say, a jab is one, a right cross is two, a left hook is three, a right hook is four, an uppercut is five – and broke down each of Foreman’s fights this way. “He’d say, OK, George, you want this fight, Round One, from minute-fifty to two-fifty. Here are the punches that are thrown: one, two, three, circle, circle, circle, then hit that left corner, then hit a three two three one, circle, then go to the right corner,” Tillman recalls. “It was opening up the doors for everybody, because we knew, he was going to be in this corner at this time and these are the punches that are coming.”
Tillman, who is a boxing fan who was extremely familiar with all of Foreman’s fights, also had specific shots that he came into the project wanting to recreate. “We had to get them right. Everybody’s seen them before. And as soon as people see the movie, they go to YouTube, asking, is that real or is that not?’” Tillman says. “Ali’s knockdown of Foreman in the eighth round in Zaire – I cover that in three angles: low angle when he gets the first punch, then a medium shot, frontal, when Ali hits him from behind, and the fall. I did those about 30 times, meaning Khris took a hit in the jaw about 30 times.”
In contrast – but just as important – is Foreman’s defeat of Michael Moorer, completing the comeback that was foretold. “That was something we tried to really nail,” says Tillman, noting that it was a different challenge because “it happens so fast – it’s not dramatic, it’s strategic.”
KHRIS DAVIS (George Foreman) made his New York stage debut in Marco Ramirez’s “The Royale” at Lincoln Center Theater. Loosely based on the life of Jack Johnson, Davis played a charismatic boxer who has the burning desire to become the first African-American heavyweight champion of the world. His star turn in this incredibly physical and emotional role garnered him a Clive Barnes Award, an Obie Award, and a Theatre World Award for Best Actor. Davis also starred in the off Broadway and Broadway productions of the Tony-nominated Pulitzer Prize-winning Lynn Nottage play “Sweat” and Atlantic Theater Company’s production of “Fireflies” with DeWanda Wise.
Davis recurred on FX’s award-winning “Atlanta” opposite Donald Glover, for which he received a SAG Award nomination as part of the ensemble. His feature credits include Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, Space Jam: A New Legacy with LeBron James, and the Oscar® nominee Judas and the Black Messiah. Davis was most recently seen starring on Broadway as Biff Loman in the first portrayal of a Black Loman family in the critically-acclaimed production of “Death of a Salesman.”
JASMINE MATHEWS (Mary Joan) recently starred opposite Kevin Hart in the Netflix action-comedy The Man from Toronto. Prior to that, she appeared with Chris Pratt in Amazon Prime Video’s The Tomorrow War, which is one of the most-watched original movies on that streamer. Next up for Mathews is the independent film All the Lost Ones.
Mathews previously was a series regular on the Starz drama “Sweetbitter,” based on the bestselling book by Stephanie Danler. She was also recently seen in a recurring role on ABC’s “The Rookie.” Additional credits include Heather McNamara in Paramount Network’s remake of “Heathers” and a guest-starring role on “Blue Bloods.”
Mathews has appeared onstage in several productions with the Nevada Conservatory Theater and the Baldwin Burroughs Theatre, including such roles as Yasmin in “Water by the Spoonful,” Shelby in “Steel Magnolias,” and Trisha in “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.” Born in Houston, Texas, the former Miss Morehouse College and Miss Historically Black College and University graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Theater from UNLV. She also attended the British American Drama Academy in London.
SULLIVAN JONES (Muhammad Ali) has amassed an impressive body of work in film, television, and stage. Jones can be seen in A24/Hulu’s horror film False Positive opposite Ilana Glazer, as well as in Dan Mirvish’s film 18½, which tells the fictionalized account of a White House transcriber who obtains a copy of the missing 18½-minute segment of the Nixon Watergate tapes. Jones also enjoyed a lead role in the film The Surrogate, which made its debut at SXSW 2020.
On the television side, Jones can be seen in Tracy Oliver’s Amazon series “Harlem.” He enjoyed a role in Julian Fellowes’s HBO’s series “The Gilded Age.” In the New York Times review of “The Gilded Age,” Mike Hale asserts that Sullivan “jolts the show to life.” Jones can also be seen in Netflix’s limited series “Halston” opposite Ewan McGregor. Jones also enjoyed the role of Donald Glover’s therapist in the fourth season of Hulu’s “Atlanta.”
On stage, Jones is best known for his role as Phillip in the Tony-nominated Broadway production of “Slave Play,” written by Jeremy O. Harris and directed by Robert O’Hara. Off-Broadway and regionally, Jones has appeared in productions at New York Theater Workshop, Epic Theater Ensemble, Williamstown Theater Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theater, and Baltimore Center Stage, among others.
JOHN MAGARO (Desmond) has spent his career nurturing an impressive body of work that encompasses film, television, and theatre.
Upcoming films include Celine Song’s Past Lives opposite Greta Lee and Teo Yoo (A24), which made its world debut at Sundance and its international debut in competition at the Berlin Film Festival. He will also star opposite Michelle Williams in a reunion with Kelly Reichardt in Showing Up, which had its world debut in competition at Cannes.
Magaro had a flashy supporting role in the Warner Bros./New Line feature film The Many Saints of Newark, the prequel to “The Sopranos,” which reunited him with David Chase. The film, which takes place during the Newark riots era in the 1960s, also stars Michael Gandolfini, Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, and Vera Farmiga, among others. He was also the co-lead in Eytan Rockaway’s Lansky, based on the real story of Meyer Lansky, a co- founder and head of the National Crime Syndicate, where he plays Young Meyer Lansky opposite Harvey Keitel and Sam Worthington.
Magaro starred as Otis “Cookie” Figowitz in First Cow, directed by Kelly Reichardt, with a screenplay written by Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond. The film, which had its world premiere at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival, and was selected to compete at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival, was released by A24 in the US on March 6, 2020, and subsequently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was released via VOD on July 10, 2020. First Cow was selected as the Best Film at the 2020 New York Film Critics Circle Awards, and it was named one of the 10 Best Films of 2020 by the National Board of Review. On behalf of his performance in the film, Magaro was nominated for a 2020 Gotham Award.
Magaro is also well known for his role in Paramount’s The Big Short, which was written and directed by Adam McKay. The cast was awarded Best Ensemble by the National Board of Review in 2015, and received the Ensemble Performance Award at the Palm Springs Film Festival. He was also nominated, among the cast, for a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Acting Ensemble, in addition to a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Additional film credits for include The Finest Hours (dir. Craig Gillespie), Carol (dir. Todd Haynes), Unbroken (dir. Angelina Jolie), Not Fade Away (dir. David Chase), for which he received a Hollywood Spotlight Award from the Hollywood Film Awards, Liberal Arts (dir. Josh Radnor), and The Brave One (dir. Neil Jordan).
No stranger to the small screen, Magaro appeared opposite Elliot Page in the hit Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy,” based on the comic book series of the same name by Gerard Way. He was also seen in the Amazon series “Jack Ryan” alongside John Krasinski, and starred as the young male lead in Amazon’s “Crisis in Six Scenes” opposite Rachel Brosnahan, Miley Cyrus, and Elaine May.
A stage actor as well, Magaro was last seen as Joe Papp in The Public Theater’s “Illyria,” written and directed by Richard Nelson. He made his Broadway debut in a flashy supporting role in Scott Rudin’s revival of “The Front Page,” directed by Jack O’Brien, opposite Nathan Lane, John Slattery, and John Goodman. Magaro also played the male lead in the critically acclaimed production of “Tigers Be Still,” written by Kimberly Rosenstock and directed by Sam Gold (“Fun Home”) for the Roundabout Theatre Company, as well as Rod McLauchlan’s “Good Television,” directed by Bob Krakower, for the Atlantic Theater Company.
SONJA SOHN’s (Nancy Foreman) journey to the screen evolved from artistic pursuits that began during the height of the 80s art revolution in NYC, where she attended the School of Visual Arts. In the 90s, she began to pursue her passion for writing, eventually landing at Brooklyn College, where her love for poetry and storytelling took over and sent her on an unexpected trajectory toward the entertainment industry. In 1998, she co-starred in and co-wrote the film Slam, which won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Camera d’Or Prize at Cannes.
Sohn’s theatrical work in entertainment over the years includes HBO’s critically acclaimed series “The Wire” and other broadcast television projects, including “Brothers and Sisters,” “Body of Proof” (ABC), “Cold Case,” “The Good Wife” (CBS), “Burn Notice” (Hulu), “Luke Cage” (Netflix), “The Chi” (Showtime), and “Star Trek Discovery” (Paramount+). Throughout her career, she has worked with renowned feature film directors John Singleton (Shaft), Steven Soderbergh (High Flying Bird), and Martin Scorsese (Bringing Out the Dead).
She made her return to ABC in January 2023 in the role of Amanda Wagner opposite Ramon Rodriguez in “Will Trent,” based on Karen Slaughter’s bestselling crime novel series.
As a documentary filmmaker, Sohn’s first foray behind the camera resulted in the critically acclaimed documentary Baltimore Rising, which chronicled the efforts of local activists, police, and community leaders in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray; the film premiered on HBO in November 2017. Her most recent documentary, The Slow Hustle, chronicles the mysterious death of Baltimore police detective Sean Suiter. It premiered last December on HBO and was nominated for a 2022 Emmy Award for Outstanding Crime and Justice Documentary.
FOREST WHITAKER (Doc Broadus) is the founder and CEO of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI), through which he provides skills and opportunities to youths and women in regions affected by violence and armed conflict in Mexico, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, and the United States, as well as Cameroon, Chad, and Gabon. Whitaker is also co-founder and chair of the International Institute for Peace, UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, and a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group. Renowned for his dedication to cultivating children’s and youths’ artistic talents, he had been a member of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, working closely with elementary schools to demonstrate the limitless power of the arts to unlock the creative potential of pupils and students.
In addition to his social activism, Whitaker is one of Hollywood’s most accomplished and versatile figures. Through his production company Significant Productions, he aims to support young, talented filmmakers. He believes that film can enlighten people across the globe and can start meaningful dialogues about important subjects. He has produced several award-winning documentaries that touch on a wide range of social issues. He has also received many distinctions for his acting, including the 2007 Academy Award® for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland; he also received the BAFTA Award, SAG Award, and Golden Globe for his performance. He also received Best Actor honors at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival for his performance in Bird. Whitaker’s artistic and humanitarian contributions have been widely recognized at home and abroad. In 2007, he received the Cinema for Peace Award for his ongoing advocacy for child soldiers and his work with inner-city youth. In 2013, Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center appointed him a Martin Luther King, Jr. Fellow. Over the past few years, he has also received awards honoring his humanitarian work from the Los Angeles Press Club, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the NAACP, Refugees International, the MLK Health Foundation, the World Childhood Foundation, the Southern California Mediation Association and more. As an artist and activist committed to promote peace and social justice, Whitaker has been honored with such recognitions as the Crystal Award at the 2017 edition of the Davos World Economic Forum and the Global Citizen Award from the Atlantic Council in 2022. In recognition of his work serving those affected by conflicts and violence, the French government appointed him in the Order of Arts and Letters in 2013 as Knight and in 2021 as Commander. In 2022, he was awarded the International Peace Honors PeaceTech Lab, for his philanthropy and humanitarian service, as well as the SDG Vanguard Award by the UN Foundation, for his innovative championing of sustainability and resilience across a wide array of countries.
Whitaker’s commitment to peace and social justice has led him to work ever more closely with the United Nations and its diverse agencies. He has addressed such bodies as the Security Council, in 2014 and 2021, and the Human Rights Council, in 2019. His dual career as an artist and activist led him to closely associate with UNESCO, the UN branch for education, science, and culture, through which he strives, as UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, to champion values of tolerance, openness, and mutual understanding. His commitment to empower former child soldiers has also led him to actively collaborate, since 2014, with the UN office for Children and Armed Conflict including in the role as an Advocate for Children Affected by War. Whitaker is also member of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group since its creation by the UN Secretary-General. Membership in this unique platform allows him to disseminate ideals of peace both on the global scene and at the grassroots, in line with his belief: “Even a seemingly small action can cause ripples that make an enormous impact.”
George Tillman Jr. (Director) is a critically acclaimed screenwriter, director, and film producer who has been involved in powerhouse projects like Barbershop, Soul Food, Men of Honor, The Hate U Give, and Notorious. In addition to directing features, Tillman has directed numerous television projects including Starz’s “Power,” Netflix/Marvel’s “Luke Cage,” and NBC’s dramedy “This Is Us.”
Previously, Tillman had co-produced MGM’s beloved Barbershop franchise films, which grossed over $200 million worldwide, Roll Bounce with Bob Teitel, and acted as Executive Producer on 2017’s Mudbound, which went on to receive four Academy Award nominations.
Tillman’s early credits include his first feature film, Soul Food, a film loosely based on his own life. Modestly budgeted at $7 million, Soul Food opened to both critical and financial success, grossing over $43 million domestically. He also directed Men of Honor, which starred Oscar®-winning actors Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Robert De Niro. The film went on to gross $85 million worldwide. He then directed the edgy telling of slain rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s life in the biopic Notorious, which helmed a cast of impressive names, including Anthony Mackie, Jamal Woolard, Derek Luke, and Oscar® nominee Angela Bassett.
He has since directed the thriller Faster starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and the critically acclaimed film The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete in addition to the adaptation of the New York Times young adult bestseller The Hate U Give, which opened to rave reviews in October 2018.
Tillman’s TV credits include directing the pilot for the highly successful TV show “For Life” on ABC. He also directed the pilot for “Crossover,” the first greenlight for a Disney+ project from 20th TV. Since, Tillman has teamed up with NBA great LeBron James of The Spring Hill Company, who has joined as executive producer for the Disney Branded Television series produced by 20th Television.
FRANK BALDWIN (Screen Story / Screenplay) is a screenwriter and novelist. He lives in Southern California with his wife Lora, and his two sons, Evan and Colin.
Baldwin grew up in New York City and in Tokyo, Japan. He attended Hamilton College.
His screen credits include Cold Pursuit, starring Liam Neeson and Laura Dern and directed by Hans Petter Moland.
His television credits include the Showtime series “Your Honor,” starring Bryan Cranston, and “61st Street,” starring Courtney B. Vance.
His first novel, Balling the Jack, was published by Simon and Schuster, and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.
His second novel, Jake & Mimi, was published by Little, Brown.
DAVID ZELON (Producer) has served as the Executive Vice President and head of Mandalay Production for Mandalay Pictures, overseeing production on all of the company’s films and television projects, since 1996.
Zelon produced eight movies over the past five years for Sony Pictures. These include Paul, Apostle of Christ, starring James Faulkner and Jim Caviezel, When the Game Stands Tall, starring Jim Caviezel, Michael Chiklis and Laura Dern, Soul Surfer, the motion picture based on the story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, starring Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, and AnnaSophia Robb, which won the award for Best Family Film of 2011, Sniper: Ultimate Kill, starring Tom Berenger and Billy Zane, and Never Back Down 2, 3, and 4, starring martial arts action stars Michael Jai White and Michael Bisping.
In 2006, Zelon produced Into the Blue, starring Paul Walker and Jessica Alba for MGM. In 2007 Zelon produced Never Back Down, which was released by Summit Entertainment in 2008 winning the MTV Award for Best Fight and spawned three direct-to-video sequels for Sony Home Entertainment.
As head of production for Mandalay, Zelon was the executive in charge of the films The Score, Beyond Borders, Sleepy Hollow, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Wild Things, and Enemy at the Gates.
Prior to Mandalay Pictures, Zelon worked for Columbia Pictures, where he was the executive in charge of production on 18 Colombia Pictures films. These included The Last Action Hero starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Cable Guy starring Jim Carrey, The Net starring Sandra Bullock, Desperado starring Antonio Banderas, Nowhere to Run starring Jean Claude Van Damme, To Die For starring Nicole Kidman, and The Craft starring Neve Campbell. Zelon broke into the business in 1990 when he produced Finishline, starring Josh and James Brolin and Mariska Hargitay. The made-for-TV movie about steroids and sports was the first to be financed by Turner Network Television.
Zelon produced the first Los Angeles Marathon in 1981 and continued producing sporting events until 1984. He then became the race director for the Men’s and Women’s marathons in the 1984 Olympics, and was later named president of Pro Muscle Management, a sports production company that produced international bodybuilding championships. The company also operated a global specialized sports camp for bodybuilding and fitness.
Born in Coney Island, New York, Zelon attended the University of Pennsylvania.
GEORGE FOREMAN, born in Marshall, Texas, is an Olympian, two-time World Heavyweight Champion, and spokesperson for the globally loved George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grill Machine.
Born in 1949, Foreman and his family moved to Houston to find new job opportunities. After years of causing trouble on the tough streets of Houston’s 5th Ward, Foreman decided he wanted to do more with his life and joined the Job Corps to get an education and provide for his family.
With the mentorship of US Veterans at the Job Corps, Foreman turned his life around. George learned the trade of masonry and became a boxer. It wasn’t long before he had won the Olympic gold medal at the Mexico City games on Oct. 27, 1968; Foreman won by a technical knockout in the second round against Iones Chepulis of Russia in what became known as the “Cold War clash.”
Foreman went on to win the world heavyweight title by defeating Joe Frazier, but later lost the title to Muhammad Ali in 1974’s Rumble in the Jungle. After becoming a Minister at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in Houston, Texas, Foreman regained the world heavyweight championship at 45 years old, becoming a cultural icon and launching his business platform with the George Foreman Grill.
Today, George Foreman is not only a globally recognized entrepreneur building the Foreman brand to new heights, but also father to ten children, grandfather to 15, and a great-grandfather. Besides his many business ventures, Foreman is also a preacher at the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
PETER GUBER (Executive Producer) is Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group. Prior to Mandalay, Guber was president of Columbia Pictures, owner and co-founder of Casablanca Record & Filmworks, chairman and CEO of Polygram Entertainment, and chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Guber produced or executive produced (personally or through his own companies) films that garnered five Best Picture Academy Award nominations (winning for Rain Man) and box office hits that include The Color Purple, Midnight Express, Batman, Flashdance, The Kids Are All Right, and Soul Surfer. In 2020, Guber executive produced the Mandalay Sports Media series “The Last Dance,” which chronicles Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls, for which the show won an Emmy for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Series and an NAACP Award for Best Documentary Series; Guber also won the PGA Producer Award. Upcoming theatrical releases include Air, directed by and starring Ben Affleck alongside Matt Damon, Viola Davis, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, Jason Bateman, and Julius Tennon. The film chronicles Nike basketball guru Sonny Vaccaro’s quest to sign rookie Michael Jordan. Peter Guber is operating owner and executive chairman of the 2015, 2017, and 2018 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors; the owner of the 2020 World Series Champion, seven-time National League West Champion, and three-time National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers; and the owner and executive chairman of Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), which won the 2022 MLS Cup Championship. Peter Guber is founder and co- executive chairman of aXiomatic, a broad-based esports and gaming company which owns Team Liquid, a premier esports team. Peter Guber is a regent of the University of California and has been a professor at UCLA for 40 years.
Peter Guber is a noted author, with works including Shootout: Surviving Fame and (Mis)Fortune in Hollywood, which became a television series on AMC that Guber hosted for six seasons. He wrote the cover article for the Harvard Business Review titled “The Four Truths of the Storyteller.” His most recent business books, Tell To Win – Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story, became an instant #1 New York Times bestseller. Guber has been a professor at UCLA Graduate Business School for over three decades.
JOHN MATYSIAK’s (Director of Photography) career has been focused on shooting internationally recognized independent films, which have premiered at more than 50 festivals worldwide, including the Venice Film Festival, the Cannes Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Tribeca Film Festival.
Matysiak recently completed filming the second season of HBO’s hit series “Winning Time.” Looking into the rise of the Lakers basketball dynasty, the series crosses several time periods, thus inviting the use of multiple formats and requiring the creation of distinctive-yet-complementary and coherent looks. Matysiak previously lensed a slate of projects that includes Alex Lehmann’s Meet Cute, a genre-defying dark comedy starring Pete Davidson and Kaley Cuoco.
Previously, Matysiak shot the critically acclaimed Old Henry, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and went on to be included in the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Films of 2021. At the 25th Annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Matysiak achieved the Best Cinematography award for his work on the feature films, Two Shadows and Model Minority.
Matysiak is widely admired for his arresting, contemporary images, which evocatively support and amplify his directors’ vision. With a background in film studies from the Czech National Film School, FAMU, in Prague and Emerson College in Boston, MA, he is a member of the International Cinematographers Guild and is based in Los Angeles, CA.
DAVID TATTERSALL, BSC (Director of Photography) is a versatile cinematographer who frequently collaborates with top directors. His extensive international experience includes work on five continents in more than twenty countries, on studio, independent, and streaming films. As cinematographer for director George Lucas, he worked on Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Episode II – Attack of the Clones, and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. His features with Frank Darabont go back to the 1999 Oscar®-nominated drama The Green Mile and the 2001 romantic drama The Majestic. With filmmaker Martin Campbell, Tattersall served as cinematographer on The Foreigner, Vertical Limit, The Protégé, and most recently on Dirty Angels. His credits as DP are substantial, including the James Bond film Die Another Day, Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Speed Racer, Romeo and Juliet, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, The Matador, The Longest Ride, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Tooth Fairy, and Death Note.
Tattersall’s work in television has been outstanding, as seen on the AMC series “Interview with the Vampire” and the pilot episode for “The Walking Dead”; TNT’s miniseries “Mob City”; and the Robert Kirkman TV series “Outcast.” His work on “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” was nominated for both a Primetime Emmy and an ASC Award by the American Society of Cinematographers.
A member of the British Society of Cinematographers, Tattersall received a first-class BA in Fine Arts from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and then studied at Britain’s National Film and Television School. His highly regarded student films include King’s Christmas, nominated for a Best Short BAFTA in 1987, and Metropolis Apocalypse, which was shown at Cannes in 1988. Tattersall is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He has lived in the U.S. for twenty years and resides in California.
CLAY A. GRIFFITH (production designer) has enjoyed a long-standing association with filmmaker Cameron Crowe, which began almost three decades ago on the romantic comedy Say Anything (as Crowe’s assistant on the filmmaker’s directorial debut), and most recently included Crowe’s romantic comedy Aloha, on which he served as production designer.
These titles have bookended Griffith’s work with Crowe, first as a set decorator (Singles, Jerry Maguire), then as production designer on Crowe’s Oscar®- winning, semi-autobiographical music extravaganza Almost Famous, for which Griffith himself earned an Art Directors Guild nomination (Contemporary Film category). Since that 2000 project, Griffith has designed Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo and Elizabethtown and the TV pilot/series “Roadies.”
While initially interested in a directing career, Griffith gravitated to art direction after serving as an art department assistant on Jonathan Demme’s acclaimed 1986 film Something Wild. He soon jumped up to set decorator on such memorable and influential films as Dirty Dancing, Mystic Pizza, David Fincher’s Se7en, John Schlesinger’s thriller Pacific Heights, Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle, and James L. Brooks’ 1997 Oscar®-nominated Best Picture, As Good As It Gets. Coincidentally, he began his professional career as a script reader at Brooks’ Gracie Films.
Following his debut as production designer on Almost Famous, Griffith has gone on to design such motion pictures as Radio, Sweet Home Alabama, Domestic Disturbance, Lucky You, Meet Dave, A Thousand Words, and Ed Zwick’s latest films Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and biopic Trial By Fire. Griffith’s most recent features include Craig Brewer’s period biopic Dolemite Is My Name, which premiered at TIFF as well as the cataclysmic thriller Greenland and college sports feature National Champions, both director Ric Roman Waugh. Additionally, he designed the pandemic set drama Harvest Moon with director Mark Waters and writer/producer/star Paul Bettany.
ALEX BLATT (Editor) is originally from Mexico City and moved to California at a young age. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in cinema studies and production from San Francisco State University in 1997. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.
CRAIG HAYES (Editor) has cemented a career as a spirited and versatile editor. He studied film at Ithaca College in New York, which inspired Hayes to hone his craft and move forward in his career. As editor for the short Warrior Queen, which was shot in Ghana and won a Best Short Subject award from the Directors Guild of America, Hayes’s talent truly shines. His commercial editing work includes several Emmy and Cannes Film Festival award winners.
Moving into feature films, Hayes worked in wide-ranging editing roles with such directors as Charles Burnett, Stephen Herek, Theodore Melfi, Tom Hooper, David Mamet, Curtis Hanson, and Jim Sheridan.
He worked as associate editor for Gus Van Sant’s To Die For and M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water, as assistant editor for Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and first assistant editor for the award-winning HBO series “John Adams.” Other HBO projects include “Phil Spector,” “Too Big To Fail,” and “The Leisure Class.”
His versatility spans several genres of feature films, including the thriller The Inheritance, the urban cautionary tale Polish Bar, the biopic Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland for Lifetime, directed by Dianne Houston, and the historical biopic Leonie, directed by Hisako Matsui.
Hayes spent several months editing the historical action biopic Kalushi: The Story of Solomon Mahlangu, directed by Mandla Dube, for which he also served as an associate producer. The film garnered a range of awards, such as the Rapid Lion Award for Best South African Film and Best Soundtrack, the Chairman’s Award at the ZIFF Awards, and Best Actor honors for Thabo Rametsi at the BRICS International Film Festival.
Hayes worked as visual effects editor on Unforgettable, directed by Denise Di Novi, followed by a stint as additional editor and visual effects editor on Hidden Figures. Hayes has recently worked on the critically acclaimed The Hate U Give, directed by George Tillman Jr. as well as being nominated for a best editing award for HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones.” He is currently working on the Starz series “Blindspotting,” based on the award winning feature from 2018.
Originally from San Francisco, MARY CLAIRE HANNAN (Costume Designer) was educated at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Design (FIDM) and at the Université de la Sorbonne in Paris. Hannan started her film career as the Costume Supervisor on Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Hannan quickly moved up the ranks, working with Tarantino on three more films, including designing the iconic costumes for the award-winning crime thriller Jackie Brown.
Hannan has since been the Costume Designer on a wide variety of features, including Academy Award® nominee for Best Picture The Kids Are All Right, Wes Craven’s Red Eye, and Sean Penn’s biographical drama Into the Wild, for which she was nominated for a Costume Designer Guild Award for her work. She has also collaborated with director David Ayer on two features: Sabotage and the groundbreaking End of Watch. Hannan’s other noteworthy credits include the crime drama series “The Unit,” created by David Mamet, the enormously successful teen drama The Fault in Our Stars, directed by Josh Boone, and David Frankel’s Jerry and Marge Go Large.
Acclaimed composer and pianist MARCELO ZARVOS (Music) is recognized for his trademark sound, which has been described as “a seamless blend of classical, orchestral, rock, electronic and various ethnic elements,” creating uniquely affecting and emotionally charged music for film, TV, modern dance, and the concert stage. The Brazilian-born Zarvos began his classical music education in his teens. He then left his home country to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), studying jazz under the legendary Charlie Haden and delving into rock and world music.
Zarvos has scored more than 60 films of varied genres and musical styles, with an expert touch for layered stories and emotive undertones. This caught the attention of award-winning director, Antoine Fuqua. Last year, he scored Fuqua’s poignant drama Emancipation, starring Will Smith. Zarvos also scored Fuqua’s upcoming film Equalizer 3, coming to theaters in the fall of 2023; Brooklyn’s Finest; the two-part HBO Sports documentary What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali; and The Guilty starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
Throughout his career, Zarvos has collaborated with celebrated filmmakers including Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said; Please Give; the Amazon series “One Mississippi”; The Land of Steady Habits), Barry Levinson (The Humbling; the Emmy-nominated You Don’t Know Jack; Rock the Kasbah) Denzel Washington (A Journal for Jordan; the award-winning Fences), and Academy Award®-winning documentary filmmaker Roger Ross Williams (the Amazon Original film Cassandro, which received critical acclaim at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival).
Upcoming projects include Flamin’ Hot, a biopic directed by Eva Longoria about Richard Montanez, the son of a Mexican immigrant who invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and disrupted the food industry. The film premiered at SXSW in March 2023 and will open in June. Marcelo Zarvos splits his time between New York and Los Angeles.