Paramount Pictures will tag team with Sony Pictures Entertainment to buy remake rights to “Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story,” the Dan Klores/Ron Berger-directed documentary that just bowed at Sundance. Scott Rudin will produce the film with Klores. Berger will be exec producer.
The deal comes amidst a fight film resurgence, as “Million Dollar Baby” slugs it out for Oscars and the Ron Howard-directed Russell Crowe-Renee Zellweger starrer “Cinderella Man” shapes up as a strong summer entry. The docu focuses on ’60s welterweight boxing champ Griffith, who battered champ Benny “Kid” Paret into unconsciousness on a nationally televised title bout. The beating took place after Paret taunted Griffith with the term “Maricon,” a derogatory Spanish term for homosexual.
Paret never regained consciousness and died 10 days later from the beating. Though Griffith wasn’t prosecuted and went on to fight for 15 more years and win six titles, the impact of that fight was huge. The death created a worldwide political and media hailstorm, with politicians calling for the sport to be banned. Boxing was taken off TV for 10 years in the U.S. Griffith never recovered from the stigma of killing his rival.
The docu has gotten strong reviews, and rights were bought at Sundance by Jeff Zucker of NBC Universal. Pic will make its broadcast debut on USA Networks on April 20.
Both Paramount and Sony pursued remake rights separately. Rudin, who chased them as well, paired the studios as he did Warner Bros. and Paramount on the Jonathan Safran Foer novel “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Klores will produce through his recently formed shingle, Shoot the Moon Prods.
“Ring of Fire” is the second docu by Klores, who made his debut on “The Boys of 2nd Street Park,” a pic that premiered at Sundance and aired on Showtime.