Just call it the feat of Clay.
The Fox web has greenlit a Muhammad Ali biopic, to be produced by Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Prods. and Fox TV Studios Pictures. Tribeca originally set up the project at HBO last year, but it migrated to Fox and its telepic production arm earlier this year.
There’s no word yet on casting for the Fox rendition of the Ali story. Will Smith is gearing up to star as the voluble, politically active pugilist (the former Cassius Clay) in a feature to be helmed by Barry Sonnenfeld, but the timetable on that Sony-based project is unclear.
Fox has programmed few original telepics in recent years, but the web is delving back into the made-for arena with high-profile projects that can be promoted as “events.”
David Nevins, exec VP of programming for the Fox web, and Marci Pool, senior veep of Fox TV Studios Pictures, are working closely together to develop a slate of six to eight noteworthy made-fors for the web this season. The Ali biopic is likely to be targeted for the February sweeps.
Also in the telepic pipeline at Fox is “Driving While Black” or “DWB,” a project from Robert Greenwald Prods. dealing with the current controversy over the use of racial profiling tactics in law enforcement. Charles S. Dutton is close to a deal to star in the pic based on the book “American Beach” by Russell Rymer, who also will pen the screenplay.
Pic, also produced through Fox TV Studios Pictures, will feature a “Rashomon”-like presentation of multiple perspectives on a routine traffic stop gone awry.
Greenwald Prods. also has just wrapped the TNT telepic “Deadlocked” starring Dutton and David Caruso. The company also is delivering “The Audrey Hepburn Story,” starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, to ABC this season.