EXCLUSIVE: The biopic about Chuck Wepner, a Jersey booze salesman and journeyman boxer who at age 35 went 15 rounds with heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali, has rounded out its cast. Jim Gaffigan, Michael Rapaport, Pooch Hall and Morgan Spector are stepping into the ring with The Bleeder for director Philippe Falardeau (The Good Lie). Liev Schreiber is starring as Wepner — a role he has wanted to play for years.
Gaffigan plays John Stoehr, the ever-loyal best friend of Schreiber’s Wepner who often lives vicariously through the fighter. Rapaport is Wepner’s estranged brother. Hall will portray Ali, whose 1975 title brawl with the 40-1 longshot Wepner serves as a central storyline to the film and the basis for Wepner’s sudden fame — which led to up-and-down life of hustle, heartache and, ultimately, redemption.
Spector will play Sylvester Stallone, who wrote Rocky soon after the Wepner-Ali fight. Wepner claimed he was the inspiration for the iconic Rocky Balboa character, but Stallone never copped to it. A lawsuit was settled out of court decades after 1976’s Rocky won three Oscars, including Best Picture, and earned Stallone noms for Best Actor and Best Screenplay. ESPN aired a documentary about Wepner titled The Real Rocky in 2011.
Mike Tollin, Liev Schreiber, Carl Hampe, Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman are producing The Bleeder, with Jeff Rice executive producing.
Gaffigan is repped by Brillstein Entertainment Partners and UTA, Rapaport is with Brillstein and Innovative Artists, Hall is repped by Abrams Artists Agency and attorney Jonathan Shikora, and Spector is with Innovative.