‘Southpaw’ is an action-drama film directed by Antoine Fuqua that revolves around an established boxer named Billy “The Great” Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal). It follows the champion as his world comes crashing down after an unfortunate incident. Billy’s career is destroyed, and the child services take his daughter away. To reclaim his glory and get his daughter back, Billy sets out on a path to seek redemption. The 2015 movie explores profound themes such as family, loss, and struggles. Through Billy Hope’s journey, it depicts what it’s like to hit rock bottom and rise again from the ashes.
Initially, rapper Eminem was to star in the film as Billy Hope after his successful outing in ‘8 Mile.’ The rapper also wrote and produced two songs for the movie. However, the role eventually went to Jake Gyllenhaal, who trained extensively and got into shape to portray the boxer. Eminem’s involvement in the project and Billy Hope’s realistic journey make us wonder if the character is based on Eminem and if ‘Southpaw‘ is a sequel to ‘8 Mile.’ Well, if you’ve been thinking about this too, look no further, as we’ve got you covered.
Is Billy Hope Based on Eminem?
Yes, Billy Hope is based on Eminem. Kurt Sutter, who penned the story of ‘Southpaw,’ wrote Billy’s character in a way that his struggles in life are similar to the tribulations Eminem faced in his career. Besides this, the relationship between Billy and his daughter, Leila, is akin to the dynamic between Eminem and his daughter, Hailie. In an interview with Deadline, Kurt Sutter mentioned how boxing is a metaphorical way for him to depict Eminem’s journey with Billy Hope as its vessel. The writer said, “It seemed like an apt metaphor, because his own life has been a brawl.”
If we look at Billy Hope’s past and everything he goes through in the film, we are reminded of the “Rap God” in many ways. The most obvious similarity is how Billy comes from an underprivileged background and has had a troubled childhood. In a couple of brief scenes, he says how he was born when his mother was incarcerated, and he owes everything to the Children’s Club. Although Eminem wasn’t ever under foster care, he did come from a marginalized part of society.
Furthermore, Eminem faced numerous problems growing up, including his mother’s addiction to drugs, which the rapper mentions in his song “My Mom.” In the movie, Billy also reveals how he has been incarcerated a couple of times. While Eminem hasn’t been incarcerated, he has been charged with the offense of possessing a weapon without a permit. For this, the rapper was sentenced to two years of probation. These instances portray how Billy and Eminem come from worlds that aren’t far from each other.
Another aspect of Billy’s character that mirrors Eminem’s life is their relationship with their daughters. In the movie, Billy strives to get back on his feet and fights to get custody of his daughter, Leila. To Billy, Leila is the most important thing in the world, and he doesn’t want to let her go at any cost. The love and courage Billy shows for Leila are comparable to what Eminem feels for his daughter Hailie. In 2000, when Eminem and his ex-wife Kim Scott were fighting for the custody of Hailie, the rapper’s grandmother told The Macomb Daily how Hailie “is his whole life.”
Besides this, both Billy and Eminem have indulged in drug and alcohol abuse. Although the movie doesn’t explicitly reveal this, Billy Hope turns to drugs and other intoxicating substances after the passing of his wife. In one scene, he even attempts to take his life by ramming his car into a pole. Later, he is asked on several instances if he is sober.
In real-life, Eminem has struggled with drug abuse, and though he’s never attempted suicide, he has thought about “giving it up,” as he said on the talk show ‘Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.’ Thus, Billy Hope’s overall arc in ‘Southpaw’ is reminiscent of Eminem’s journey and struggles. The rap artist’s life is best depicted in the semi-biographical film, ‘8 Mile,’ and these similarities between the real and fictional figures make us wonder if ‘Southpaw’ is a sequel to ‘8 Mile.’
Is Southpaw a Sequel to 8 Mile?
‘Southpaw’ isn’t a sequel to ‘8 Mile’ in the traditional sense. It is a metaphorical sequel that portrays Eminem’s life through the lens of boxing. While speaking to Deadline, the writer mentioned, “In a way, this is a continuation of the 8 Mile story, but rather than a literal biography, we are doing a metaphorical narrative of the second chapter of his life.”
‘Southpaw’ indeed acts as a second chapter, and various tropes point to this. While ‘8 Mile’ is about a rapper who tries to make it big after coming from nowhere, ‘Southpaw’ depicts how the boxer attempts to gain what is lost and rebuild the glory the fighter once possessed. On the one hand, ‘8 Mile’ shows how the character dreams of making it big. On the other hand, ‘Southpaw’ represents what it’s like to return to the dark places the person rose from after overcoming many obstacles. Thus, to reiterate, Billy Hope is inspired by nuances of Eminem’s life, and ‘Southpaw’ is a symbolic sequel to ‘8 Mile.’
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