EXCLUSIVE: Bleed For This producer Chad A. Verdi is lining up movie biopics of Muhammad Ali Jr. and Lennox Lewis’s former manager Kellie Maloney.
Verdi is already in production on two documentaries about the subjects and next year is planning to make the two feature dramas.
Verdi, an executive-producer on Martin Scorsese movies The Irishman and Silence, is making his directorial debut on documentary My Father Muhammad Ali: The Untold Story alongside co-director Tom DeNucci (Vault).
The doc, which is said to have full buy-in from its subject, will chart Ali Jr.’s struggle growing up as the son of “the greatest”. The film will tell the story of the champion boxer through the eyes of his only biological son and explore themes of bullying, abandonment, addiction, family, and finding peace.
The narrative feature, which Verdi is aiming to make next fall, will touch on similar themes to the documentary and chart Ali Jr’s life as a young boy, teenager and young man.
Verdi told us: “It’s hard to imagine given his father’s success, but Muhammad Ali Jr. has lived on the poverty line. His kids have had a challenging time, he has battled addiction and it has been incredibly difficult to live in his father’s shadow. Thankfully, he is now working, building relationships with his kids and is recovering from addiction. I believe this is a story that needs to be told and is very relevant today.”
Verdi, who also has real estate and restaurant interests, has worked with Scorsese on five movies to date and says he hopes to work with the filmmaker again. “I’ll try to sit down with Marty to see if he’ll want to produce the Ali biopic with me. I’ve really enjoyed our collaborations until now.”
Nick Tillinger Koskoff, husband of Scorsese’s regular producing partner Emma Tillinger Koskoff, is producing the two Ali films with Verdi, as well as thriller Wash Me In River, which is in production with Jack Huston, Robert De Niro and John Malkovich starring.
An equally interesting boxing-related story comes in the shape of Verdi-produced documentary Kellie, which is also in production. The film, which is being directed by DeNucci and Rick Lazes, will tell the authorized story of respected transgender boxing manager and promoter Kellie Maloney who rose to fame as the manager Lennox Lewis, the last undisputed heavyweight champion.
The film will explore how Kellie – formerly known as Frank – confronted uncertainty and ultimately accepted herself for who she was. Using never-seen-before archive footage, re-enactments and interviews from family and colleagues the film will be a deep dive on its subject.
“Her story is phenomenal,” says Verdi. “She is the strongest, toughest individual.”
The aim is to employ trans actors for both roles in the narrative version of the film. “The lead has to be a trans actor or I won’t make the movie,” explains Verdi. “This film will chart before, during and after the transition period. It will look at how Kellie was able to dominate in a man’s world as well as at her personal life.”
Verdi has remained prolific during the pandemic and expects up to ten project he is working on to be delivered in the next 20 months. Also in production is horror film Jungle Room with Michael Madsen, and he is an exec producer on upcoming action film Castle Falls with Dolph Lungren and Scott Adkins and thriller Midnight In The Switchgrass with Bruce Willis and Megan Fox. Verdi’s son Chad A. Verdi Jr. is executive-producing all of his dad’s movies with him.
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