Big George Foreman: The True Story of a Boxing Champion’s Path to Hope

Image Credit: Alan Markfield

Directed by George Tillman Jr., ‘Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World’ is a biographical sports drama film that follows the story of George Foreman. We start at the beginning, when he was an angry kid living in a poor neighborhood. When Foreman finds boxing, his life takes a turn. He has a meteoric rise in which he becomes the best boxing champion in the world. However, achieving this success so early in his life leads him to make some questionable choices. As he falls, he doesn’t realize that he has yet to do bigger things in life.

The film gives us an intimate look into the life of the legendary boxer, showing us how invincible he felt in the moments of success and how vulnerable he was during the dark periods of his life. While the audience is familiar with the famous fights that have gone down in history, the movie digs deeper into what made him the George Foreman. As a result, we see some things that might feel too unreal to have happened to a real person. If you are wondering how much of the story is true, here’s what you should know.

Big George Foreman: Boxing Hero’s True Journey

‘Big George Foreman’ is the incredible true story of George Foreman, who became the oldest heavyweight champion in 1995 at the age of 46. The film is based on the screenplay by Frank Baldwin and George Tillman Jr., with Foreman serving as an executive producer in the film. While the film dramatizes some events, mainly through dialogue, most of the events in the movie are true.

Tillman revealed that while working on the script, he had Foreman just a phone call away whenever he needed to iron out some facts about the movie. He and Foreman had in-depth discussions about what the boxer felt during the career-defining matches of his life, giving him access to the things the boxer had never discussed. The director said: “Those stories made him human to me because he was such an iconic individual. That made it exciting. All that excitement and fun, I tried to bring into the movie as much as I could.”

To better understand Foreman’s personality and how the people close to him know him, Tillman spent a few days with him in Houston, “just talking to him and getting to know him, and spending time at one of his ranches.” He also revealed that one of the things Foreman wanted to be done right was his relationship with Muhammad Ali, who beat him in the infamous fight in Zaire. He didn’t want them to come across as enemies because they had been great friends in real life.

Foreman also met actor Khris Davis, who plays him in the movie, and talked with him so Davis could get into the skin of the character. Talking about a conversation they had early on in the shoot, Foreman revealed: “I told [Davis] to look me in the eye. And he looked me in the eye, and I said: ‘No – look me in the eye until you find me… a reflection of me in your eyeballs. And don’t look away until you do.’ I guess he’s thinking, ‘What is he trying to do to me?’ But I made him look me in the eye until he said, ‘I see you… I see you.’ I said, ‘That’s it.’ That’s what I was doing to boxers in the ring. I wouldn’t stop looking at them until I saw myself in their eyes.”

Another piece of advice Davis received from Foreman was to be reckless. “That’s the way that he fought when he was younger. He fought with “recklessness.” Meaning, when you have that kind of recklessness, it doesn’t matter who you hurt or how you hurt them – as long as they’re hurt, as long as they’re down,” Davis said. The actor also dedicated himself to physically transforming for the role. He had to play two parts in Foreman’s life. One was in his early days and the second when he was in his forties.

Foreman was a completely different man in these eras of his life. For the first part, Davis had to build muscle, but for the second part, he had to gain a lot of weight. He was given six weeks after shooting the first part to bulk up for the second half. Reportedly, the actor consumed around 7000 calories a day. “I gained 50lbs in five weeks, going from 225 to 275. In total, I ended up getting to about 280, 282,” Davis revealed.

The filmmakers were also specific about how they filmed the fight scenes, especially the one with Muhammad Ali. However, for screenwriter Frank Baldwin, the story’s core was Foreman finding his faith and the spirituality that guided his life. “One way to sum up the theme of the movie is one man’s journey from anger to spirituality. I think what sometimes gets lost behind George’s wit, humor, and nice guy persona is how hard that struggle was and the spiritual being that he’s become, which is central to who he is,” Baldwin said.

For George Foreman, this is a story about hope. “As a young boy, I didn’t really have anything. I didn’t have hope. Can you imagine going through life without hope? When I saw that and realized where I’d come from, it made me shake off anything else that could happen to me today. I found hope. I want people to look at the movie and find hope themselves,” he said. Considering all this, it is clear that the filmmakers have done their best to stay true to Foreman’s story and do justice in bringing his incredible life story to the screen.

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