David Oyelowo to Star in Sugar Ray Robinson Biopic

By Kirsten Anderson Casting

How sweet it is for David Oyelowo.

Biopic news! Deadline says that David Oyelowo is set to star in a film about the life of boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. The movie is based on Wil Haygood’s biographySweet Thunder: The Life And Times Of Sugar Ray Robinson.” Rachael Horovitz, who produced “Moneyball” and shepherded that movie through some of its darkest days, will produce.

Haywood has written a draft of the script, but Danny Strong, who’s also one of the producers, might do a rewrite; that will depend on the director, who’s yet to be selected. Strong adapted Haywood’s Washington Post’s articles into Lee Daniels’s currently filming “The Butler,” which Oyelowo also stars in, so there’s some collaboration history here.

Here’s a synopsis of the book from publisher Random House:

Continuing to set himself apart as one of our canniest cultural historians, Wil Haygood grounds the spectacular story of Robinson’s rise to greatness within the context of the fighter’s life and times. Born Walker Smith, Jr., in 1921, Robinson had an early childhood marked by the seething racial tensions and explosive race riots that infected the Midwest throughout the twenties and thirties. After his mother moved him and his sisters to the relative safety of Harlem, he came of age in the vibrant post-Renaissance years. It was there that—encouraged to box by his mother, who wanted him off the streets—he soon became a rising star, cutting an electrifying, glamorous figure, riding around town in his famous pink Cadillac. Beyond the celebrity, though, Robinson would emerge as a powerful, often controversial black symbol in a rapidly changing America. Haygood also weaves in the stories of Langston Hughes, Lena Horne, and Miles Davis, whose lives not only intersected with Robinson’s but also contribute richly to the scope and soul of the book.

From Robinson’s gruesome six-bout war with Jake “Raging Bull” LaMotta and his lethal meeting with Jimmy Doyle to his Harlem nightclub years and thwarted show-biz dreams, Haygood brings the champion’s story, in the ring and out, powerfully to life against a vividly painted backdrop of the world he captivated.

Hollywood has always loooooooved boxing movies, even though the sport no longer has the same kind of public interest that it had in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s.

Before “The Butler,” busy Oyelowo will also be seen in “Lincoln” and “Jack Reacher” with Tom Cruise. He’s also been cast in a biopic of Nina Simone, which stars Zoe Saldana. He’s currently in theaters with “The Paperboy” and “Middle of Nowhere.”

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