Two Upcoming Boxing Docs: TYSON, THRILLA IN MANILA

By at March 10, 2009 | 11:12 pm | Print

The boxing world has always been fertile ground for fascinating personalities and epic showdowns — some tailor-made for documentary films. Two such movies are ready to enter the ring after being featured at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival: James Toback’s revealing Tyson and John Dower’s Thrilla in Manila.

Tyson Movie Poster:: Tyson
Director James Toback is known to have a renegade streak and that was apparent in his first collaboration with Tyson, the 1999 racy race-relations drama Black and White. Tyson plays himself (of course), a guy pissed off enough to grab Robert Downey, Jr. after Downey offers an ad lib or two saying he’s had dreams about the former heavyweight champ…

Fast forward to 2008, and Toback has devoted an entire film to Tyson, digging into the man’s life via interviews, archival footage, still photos… and a good deal of sympathy. The 90-minute film was generally well-received at Cannes, winning a wacky one-time award called the “Regard Knockout Award.” (Click on the poster for the biggie.)

In January, Sony Pictures Classics picked up Tyson for distribution, and a limited release begins April 29.

:: Thrilla in Manila (aka “Thriller in Manila”)
Anyone with a remote interest in boxing knows what this film’s title refers to: the last of three remarkable fights between two unbelievable legends, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. At the center of the story is “Ali-Frazier III,” of course, but there’s a lot more behind the tale: Frazier’s support of Ali’s war protest, Ali using race to ridicule Frazier, and the intense trilogy of fury both fighters brought to the world in the early 1970s.

And while many films adore Ali’s side of the story, director John Dower (the NY Cosmos film Once In A Lifetime) focuses on the point-of-view held by Frazier, often considered the “other man” in the ring.

Here’s a short trailer from the film’s TV airing in the UK:

HBO has picked up Thrilla in Manila, and will premiere the film April 11 at 8pm.

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  1. […] week, we posted details on the Ali-Frazier boxing doc Thrilla In Manila, premiering in the US on HBO, April 11. Now, the network’s sharing a scene from the movie, […]

6 Comments


  1. Tworm, 8 years ago Reply

    How does it compare to “When We Were kings”?

    – Tworm


  2. Norm Schrager, 8 years ago Reply

    @Tworm
    Excellent question. When We Were Kings certainly elevates the “myth” of Ali more than Thrilla in Manila.

    You can sort of tell that just by the trailer in fact — Ali doesn’t look like a hero calling Frazier a “gorilla”. And the press notes are making no bones about the movie coming from Frazier’s POV.


  3. Wes, 8 years ago Reply

    Thrilla certainly looks interesting, especially the Frazier perspective. Tyson on the other hand- notsomuch.


  4. Norm Schrager, 8 years ago Reply

    @Wes
    I get the feeling some people may have lost patience with Tyson, even after all these years. Especially since he’s a convicted rapist, regardless of the truth.

    Barbara Kopple directed a documentary about him in 1993, and that was probably a more interesting time to draw sympathy for the guy.

    It’s 16 years later, and I think people are either bored with his story or incensed by his actions. Either way, Sony Pictures feels there’s enough interest…


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