How closely does ''Ali'' stick to the truth? | EW.com

Movies

How closely does ''Ali'' stick to the truth?

This season's biographical films take varying degrees of cinematic license

Will Smith, Ali

(Frank Connor)

Long with record box office, this year’s crop of holiday movies left filmgoers with an overabundance of head scratchers. Below, some answers?and for all you spoiler grinches, consider yourselves warned.

ALI
Reel Life Michael Mann’s biopic includes a ring full of historical surprises. The film suggests that Muhammad Ali (Will Smith) and Martin Luther King Jr. (LeVar Burton) shared a lawyer and that Sonny Liston (Michael Bentt) and his handlers put an irritating substance on Liston’s gloves, causing Ali to stumble blindly during the pair’s 1964 Miami bout. In addition, the champ is very friendly with Howard Cosell (Jon Voight) – to the point that Cosell calls Ali at home to inform him of the Supreme Court decision regarding Ali’s draft evasion.
Real Life Attorney Chauncey Eskridge (Joe Morton) did represent both Ali and King, and was at the Memphis motel where the civil rights leader was assassinated (though historians are uncertain whether Eskridge was actually on the phone with Ali at the time). The cause of Ali’s blindness during the Liston fight remains a mystery. ”It has always been rumored that [Liston’s camp] did rub something on the gloves and it got into Ali’s eyes,” says Leon Gast, director of the 1996 Ali documentary ”When We Were Kings,” who adds that there was never any confirmation of (or punishment for) the act. As for Ali and Cosell, despite all the toupee grabbing, the pair ”didn’t have intimate moments where they talked about their problems and their wives,” says veteran New York Times sports columnist Robert Lipsyte, who covered Ali in the ’60s and early ’70s. ”It was a very respectful business relationship.” According to Lipsyte, Ali was driving around Chicago when a fan with a transistor radio banged on his car window to let him know about the Supreme Court decision. Moreover, Cosell didn’t hang around Zaire long enough to cover the postponed rumble between Ali and George Foreman. Sony had no comment on Mann’s dramatic rope-a-dopes.

KATE & LEOPOLD
Reel Life Nineteenth-century British time traveler Leopold (Hugh Jackman) invents the elevator – and names it after his servant Otis.
Real Life Get thee to a patent lawyer, Leo. New Yorker Elisha Graves Otis invented the elevator in 1853, says Otis Elevator spokesman Dilip Rangnekar. But far from being upset, the company provided props to give the production a lift.