‘Room’ Director Lenny Abrahamson’s Next Movie Is About Real-Life Boxer Emile Griffith
Room sort of quietly snuck into the Oscar race this year thanks in part to powerful performances from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, acting under the eye of director Lenny Abrahamson. While we wait to see how Room fares during awards season, Abrahamson is already developing his next feature, and based on his inspiration for the project, this one will undoubtedly deliver some fierce performances as well.
According to Deadline, Abrahamson is developing a movie based on the true story of boxer Emile Griffith, who won two world class titles but was instead remembered for something else: beating his opponent Benny “The Kid” Paret to death during a live televised match in 1962.
The horrific incident was preceded by a moment during the weigh-in, when Paret groped Griffith’s buttock and called him a homosexual. Griffith was, in reality, a bisexual man who was forced to remain closeted due to the era’s conservative social views. The untitled film is based on Donald McRae’s book A Man’s World: The Double Life Of Emile Griffith, which chronicles the boxer’s life from his underprivileged childhood in the Virgin Islands to his rapid rise to boxing fame in the U.S., where he used winnings to bring his siblings to America.
Griffith won his initial title in the first bout with Cuban boxer Paret, but their next match proved deadly when a disoriented Paret was stuck against the ropes, and Griffith proceeded to deliver 24 consecutive blows. Paret was comatose for 10 days before he finally passed away.
Abrahamson spoke with Deadline about what drew him to the project, and offered a choice quote from Griffith, who passed away several years ago after a struggle with dementia:
You look at how closely his two worlds intersected. Just how different are they, when the sport is such a celebration of the male body and the beauty of its athleticism. Go one step further, and inject the tiniest sense of sexuality, and people are up in arms. Griffith himself once said a quote that just floored me. ‘They forgave me for killing a man, but they couldn’t forgive me for loving a man.’ That to me was so powerful and such a crazy contradiction. And it is still relevant today.
Abrahamson previously directed the quirky indie music drama Frank, starring Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson, but it was this year’s stunningly poignant Room that got everyone talking about the director and what he might do next.