Bruce Willis has been set to play legendary boxing trainer Cus D’Amato in Cornerman, the biopic written and directed by Rupert Friend. Friend and Aimée Mullins are producing for Circus Florist Films with Marc Butan and Ara Keshishian producing for MadRiver Pictures. A fall start is eyed. CAA is handling U.S. rights and IMR International will begin foreign sales in Cannes this week.
The Bronx-born D’Amato trained such storied fighters as Floyd Patterson, José Torres and Mike Tyson and was known for developing the Peek-a-Boo style. He boxed as a featherweight and lightweight amateur in his younger days but never got a professional license. Throughout his career, he also had dust-ups with the boxing establishment. When D’Amato died in 1985, Patterson said, “There will never be another manager or person who cares about his fighters the way Cus did.”
Cornerman is set in the 1980s Catskills where D’Amato is a reluctantly retired coach. Along with his partner Camille, he runs a small gym where he and his trainers, including former street-brawler Teddy Atlas, coach young contenders. But the backer of the gym is pressuring D’Amato to find a real competitor and to secure his professional legacy.
Then a friend drops by with a 13-year-old Tyson. Seeing the kid’s potential, D’Amato takes him in, determined to turn the mercurial hothead into the youngest-ever heavyweight world champion. A worldwide search is on for the actor who will play Tyson.
Willis is represented by CAA. Friend is repped by CAA and 42.