GOOD MORNING: “Mike Tyson will win Saturday night’s World Boxing Assn. heavyweight title match vs. Evander Holyfield in 10 rounds,” Don King told me. Well, not exactly Don King: it was thesp Ving Rhames, who is playing King in HBO Pictures’ “Only in America: The Don King Story.” I caught up with the company, led by director John Herzfeld, Thursday ayem in the Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Wilshire Blvd. and Berendo. It was doubling for a N.Y. church where King meets up with pal Lloyd Price, played by Vondie Curtis Hall in front of a casket containing the body of pal Harold Logan (who is played by Lou Rawls). Director Herzfeld — who has interviewed King at length as well as many of the principals in King’s life, and who will be on hand for the fight Saturday — says Holyfield will win by a KO in the ninth round The sequence being filmed Thursday was set in 1967, before King had adopted his spiked coiffure. It was singer Price who told him to take on the look, and colorful wardrobe and theatrics. But in this early sequence, Rhames looked his own, usual handsome self, wearing a somewhat conservative dark shirt and white tie, but puffing a huge stogie as he walked down the church aisle to the casket. Rhames, currently on screen in “Con Air,” admitted, “I had to reprogram my own feelings about King after reading the script.” It’s by Kario Salem and based on the book, “Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King” by Jack Newfield. Herzfeld gave the script to King who claimed portions are pure bull, adding that Hollywood is “out to crucify me!” But Herzfeld sticks by the script — and even added one more King killing (besides Sam Garrett) about which King himself told Herzfeld. … King claimed HBO is making the movie because he shifted to Showtime after he’d demanded that HBO fight commentator Larry Merchant be kept off his fights, and HBO Sports refused. “You can’t tell us what to do,” they told King. P.S. HBO Sports has nothing to do with this film. … Rhames spoke once with King, in Las Vegas, and Hall said he’d met up with the fight promoter when Hall was appearing in “Dreamgirls”: King wanted him to sing at a benefit between fights. Hall didn’t. Hall will sing Lloyd Price’s signature tune, “Personality” in the HBO movie. … Add to realism, the biopic cast includes the Cleveland cop, Bob Tonne, who arrested King for murder (reduced to manslaughter). Tonne is now mayor of Brooklyn Heights, Ohio. Also in the movie is Don Elbaum who got King involved in fight promoting.
TV CINEMATIC INNOVATIONS will debut in the King HBO’er, said honored d.p. Bill Butler. Rhames-as-King will appear in the fight ring and, via special lenses, will cement the action sequences (sans blue screen) as time progresses over five decades. Director Herzfeld says HBO has not given him a running time limit on the all-encompassing saga of modern day boxing. But he has a budget of (only!) $8.5 million. Thomas Carter exec produces — and on the set was producer David Brocker, who is no stranger to the subject, having produced HBO’s “Tyson.” A picture of Muhammad Ali hangs in Herzfeld’s trailer; he visited with him, as well as George Foreman and Larry Holmes, before starting the vidpic which locations in sites familiar to the fighters: Zaire, Manila, L.A., Las Vegas and N.Y. Darius McCrary plays Ali in the pic. … Herzfeld says, “I think I’m bringing a sense of humanity to the world of boxing,” despite the many brutal scenes in and out of the ring. … Rhames told me he will star in “‘Bout Time, ” the story of heavyweight Jack Johnson; the script is written by Ving’s wife, Valerie Scott Rhames, and several companies want to finance it, he said. First, Rhames joins George Clooney and Danny DeVito in “Out of Sight” for Jersey Films.
BILLY BOB THORNTON’S young costar in “Sling Blade,” Lucas Black, will co-star with Ellen Burstyn (as his grandmother) in Disney’s ABC Sunday Night vidpic “Flash.” Director Simon Wincer starts prepping Monday in Atlanta, having just wound (today!) Showtime’s “Flight From Bahrain” in Toronto, after a tough location in Israel which doubled for Saudi Arabia. The latter concerns John McDonald’s (played by Treat Williams) escape in a cargo box from Saudi, and Wincer said there was no way they could shoot it there: they even used a fake name for the pic — “The Runaway Box” — as camouflage while filming in Israel. The Neufeld-Rehme project is the first of several fact-based “Escape” movies that N/R is developing for Showtime. … Richard Chamberlain was signed by B’way producer Manny Kladitis (now presenting “Master Class” with Faye Dunaway) for a pre-B’way tour of “Man of La Mancha,” bowing in Jan. … A memorial service for Brian Keith will be held 3 p.m. Sunday at Our Lady of Malibu. Service is open to family and friends. … John Frankenheimer receives the Rosebud Award from Cal State U.’s Summer Arts Media Fest, Sunday. Frankenheimer’s George Wallace biopic for TNT, “Wallace,” preems Aug. 24.