BlacKkKlansman Oscar winner Kevin Willmott is set to write the feature story of Wimbledon tennis champion and African American civil rights activist Arthur Ashe, a project on which Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment Group and Warner Music Group (WMG) are teaming.
It’s a project that’s close to Amritraj’s heart, the Hyde Park producer being a former Wimbledon pro himself. Hyde Park obtained the full support of the Arthur Ashe Estate in developing the film. Warner Music Group will help secure the music and provide creative guidance to the filmmakers, which plan to tap into the extraordinary works of the era by such artists as Aretha Franklin, Prince, Curtis Mayfield and others.
“Arthur’s legacy reaches far beyond his greatness as a tennis player,” Amritraj said. “Always a gentleman; bold, graceful, and intellectual; while at the same time passionate in his fight against racial inequality and injustice, I am honored to bring Arthur’s story to the screen”.
Ashe’s inspirational and aspirational story begins on the public courts in Richmond, VA, as he rises to become the only black man to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, ranking No. 1 in the world. In 1968 when Ashe wins the U.S. Open, it’s one of the most charged eras in American history as the nation struggles with the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., anti-Vietnam protests and the civil rights movement. Ashe forges his role within the black revolution in America, finding his own unique voice as he strikes a bold new path against apartheid in South Africa and helps open the country to freedom.
Amritraj will produce for Hyde Park and Charles Cohen for WMG. Executive producers include Ashe’s wife Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Hyde Park’s Priya Amritraj and Addison Mehr, alongside Alexandra Dell.
Willmott recently wrote the Spike Lee-directed Netflix Vietnam war feature Da 5 Bloods, and also wrote for Lee on Chi-Raq. As a filmmaker, Willmott directed, wrote and produced the upcoming The 24th, The Profit and The Battle for Bunker Hill. Willmott’s The 24th tells the true story of the all-black 24th U.S. Infantry Regiment and the Houston Riot of 1917. The Houston Riot was a mutiny by 156 African-American soldiers in response to the brutal violence and abuse at the hands of Houston police officers. The riot lasted two hours and led to the death of nine civilians, four policemen and two soldiers. It resulted in the largest murder trial in history, which sentenced 19 men to execution and 41 to life sentences.
Willmott is represented by Gersh and Erik Hyman at Paul Hastings LLP.