Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber and Christina Hendricks are set to star in the boxing drama The Bleeder. Per Variety, the film is based on the story of Chuck Wepner, the New Jersey heavyweight boxer who fought 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali and inspired to Sylvester Stallone to write Rocky. The biopic is the natural transition for documentary filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig (The Devil and Daniel Johnston) to directing narrative features. Feuerzeig co-wrote the script with Jerry Stahl (Bad Boys II).
Studio home Hyde Park International is shopping The Bleeder at the Cannes Film Festival this week along with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vegneance, The Double, Echelon, and Our Idiot Brother. If I were a billionaire cinephile hanging out in the French Riviera right now, I’d have a hard time passing up the Watts/Schreiber/Hendricks package. Hit the jump for more on Wepner.
Here’s the Wikipedia account of the Wepner/Ali fight:
In 1975, it was announced Wepner would challenge Muhammad Ali for the world’s Heavyweight title. According to a Time magazine article, “In Stitches”, Ali was guaranteed $1.5 million and Wepner signed for $100,000. This was considerably more than Wepner had ever earned and he therefore did not need any coaxing. Wepner spent eight weeks near the Catskill Mountains under the guidance of Al Braverman (manager) and Bill Prezant (trainer and noted cutman). Prezant prophesied that the fight would be a big surprise. This bout was the first time Wepner had been able to train full time. The fight was held on March 24 at the Richfield Coliseum, near Cleveland. Before the fight, a reporter asked Wepner if he thought he could survive in the ring with the champion, to which Wepner allegedly answered, “I’ve been a survivor my whole life…if I survived the Marines, I can survive Ali.”
In the ninth round Wepner appeared to knock down Ali, though Ali later contended that Wepner had stepped on his foot. Wepner went to his corner and said to his manager, “Hey, I knocked him down.” “Yeah,” Wepner’s manager replied, “but he looks really pissed off now…”
In the remaining rounds, Ali decisively outboxed Wepner and opened up cuts above both Wepner’s eyes and broke his nose. Wepner was far behind on the scorecards when Ali knocked him down with 19 seconds left in the 15th round. The referee counted to nine before calling a technical knockout.
Schreiber mentioned interest in playing Wepner earlier in the year. At 6’3″, Schreiber certainly has the physical presence of a boxer, which is very important to me in a biopic — particularly one that centers on an athlete.
Any boxing afficionados care to guess who Watts or Hendricks might play? A 2007 feature at Hossli describes wife Linda as “a voluptuous Italian with peroxide-blond hair,” which sounds like what might happen if you spliced the DNA of Watts, Hendricks, and an Italian. However, Wepner was married three times and claims to have “millions of women.” (In a particularly classy move, Wepner secured seats for two girlfriends right next to his wife at the Ali fight.) So the possibilities are endless.
Interview – Part 1
Interview – Part 2
Round 15 of the Ali fight