Muhammad Ali

*HBO announced today that its film “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” a dramatization of the champ’s Supreme Court battle to avoid fighting in the Vietnam War, will debut on Saturday, October 5 at 8 p.m.

The script by Shawn Slovo focuses solely on the behind-the-scenes legal bickering among the justices in ultimately deciding to grant Ali Conscientious Objector status.

But, while actors portray the various justices who decided the case, no actor plays Muhammad Ali, because he is not written into the script as a character  – a move that was questioned when Slovo faced TV critics last month.

“We were making a Supreme Court drama, and apart from Thurgood Marshall, who is played by Danny Glover, all of the characters in our film and all of the clerks (are white),” Slovo told the TCA Summer Press Tour. “There are no black clerks, no women clerks at the time, and [the legal battle] was the focus of our story. So, yeah, there are a bunch of white people, but that was the drama that we were telling. [We] chose to make a Supreme Court drama around the Ali case.”

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Danny Glover (standing) as Thurgood Marshall in HBO’s “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” premiering Oct. 5 at 8 p.m.

Muhammad Ali does feature heavily in the movie, but only through historical footage. Below, director Stephen Frears gives us his take on Slovo’s decision to forgo Ali as a scripted character.  

“Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight” stars Christopher Plummer, Frank Langella and Benjamin Walker. It’s directed by Stephen Frears.

Watch the trailer below.