One of the legends of boxing is the subject of a high-profile project at HBO that brings together industry heavyweights including Tom Hanks and Ken Burns. The miniseries about the life of Jack Johnson, the first African-American world heavyweight champion, will be written by “Ides of March” screenwriter Beau Willimon, Deadline.com reports.
Both Hanks and his Playtone partner Gary Goetzman are on board as executive producers on “Jack Johnson,” with documentarian Burns set to direct and executive produce and Willimon to co-executive produce, the piece reports.
“To be told in four to six parts, the mini is based on the Geoffrey C. Ward book ‘Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise And Fall Of Jack Johnson,’ which Burns previously adapted into the Emmy-winning PBS documentary of the same name,” the piece reports.
The story adds: “In the early 20th century, Johnson was the class of the heavyweight division, a proud man of color who paid a high price for it. The main problem: he twice married white women and did not hide it or the fact that he liked to live well. He surprised both whites and blacks when he was given a title shot by Canadian fighter Tommy Burns and beat him. He further shook up the white status quo by knocking out ex-champ James J. Jeffries, who’d refused to fight Johnson while he held the belt but came out of retirement to be touted by the press and racist whites as the ‘Great White Hope.’”
Following Johnson’s win over Jeffries, race riots broke out across the U.S., resulting in more than 20 deaths, the report notes.
Johnson was previously portrayed by James Earl Jones in the Broadway production and feature film “The Great White Hope.”