“The more I investigated the script, it became pretty clear quite early on that it was a completely different Malcolm and an opportunity to show him in a way that maybe we haven’t seen him before: vulnerable and broken,” Ben-Adir said during a Q&A on Monday night during AFI Fest presented by Audi.
The virtual panel, which took place after the AFI screening of “One Night in Miami” at the Rose Bowl, also included Leslie Odom Jr., Eli Goree and Aldis Hodge. The cast discussed Regina King’s directorial debut and the importance of their roles portraying Malcolm X (Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Hodge), Sam Cooke (Odom) and Cassius Clay (Gore), the latter of which would later change his name to Muhammad Ali.
In a video message prior to the Q&A, King shared her thoughts on the film’s cultural significance. Though it is set during a single meeting between the four men in 1964, it covers themes relevant to today’s political discourse.
“When I first read Kemp Powers’ compelling screenplay, I just wanted nothing more than to bring this story about four legendary men — Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke and Malcolm X — to the screen,” King said. “Many of the things being discussed in this film are just as relevant today as they were 60 years ago. We hope that their conversations on screen will inspire your conversations off screen.”
The cast praised King for her directing skills. “She really created an atmosphere on set where we could take risks and try different things out and not be scared to make mistakes,” Ben-Adir said.
“One Night in Miami” also tells a story of a younger Brown, the football legend who is now a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump. “It’s all about the honesty,” Hodge said. “The thing I loved about stepping into these shoes was discovering who [Brown] was then and understanding where he was at and the work he was doing in terms of economic education and empowerment for the Black culture and community at the time. It was a great opportunity to show this side of him that maybe this generation might not know.”
The film will hit select theaters on Christmas Day, and on Amazon Prime Video on Jan. 15.