Eli Goree interview: ‘One Night in Miami’
“I’ve wanted to play Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali for years, long before I heard about the project,” admits Eli Goree about why he was so passionate about landing the role of a lifetime in “One Night in Miami.” “It was something that I was very passionate about,” he says. Watch our exclusive video interview with Goree above.
“One Night in Miami” is Oscar and four-time Emmy-winning actress Regina King‘s big-screen directorial debut, adapted by writer Kemp Powers from his 2013 stage play of the same name. The film imagines what would have happened if Clay, singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), civil rights activist Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and football star Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) came together in a Miami hotel room after Clay defeated Sonny Liston in February of 1964. What transpires between these iconic men is a lively and timely discussion set against the backdrop of the tumultuous civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The actor felt compelled to play the legendary boxer because of what he says Ali represents. “It’s his determination and faith,” Goree explains. “His willingness to stand by what he believes, regardless of public opinion, regardless of public ignorance and to say that this is what I think is true and these are the principles that I live by.”
The Amazon Studios film is a strong awards contender after it premiered at the Venice Film Festival over Labor Day weekend, where King made history as the first African-American female director invited to show a film there. Critics have praised her deft first-time turn at the helm and have gushed over its the performances of all four of its main cast, with Goree contending in the lead actor category alongside Ben-Adir and Hodge contending in supporting with Odom Jr.
When he looks back to shooting some of the iconic boxing scenes, Goree doesn’t mince words, admitting that they took a significant physical and emotional toll on him. “It was physically the most demanding thing I have ever had to do,” he declares. “It was hard work! It was a lot of fun to be in that moment and to step into that ring and to have fans and to feel like a fighter and I was in there with real fighters, I wasn’t in there with stunt guys. They were professional fighters. There was a real sense of danger. These guys are not trained to miss you, they’re trained to hit you!” he laughs.
“It was very challenging. I was probably in bed for about two weeks when we wrapped those fight scenes. We were there for 16 hours a day, under hot lights, doing take after take after take. Those shots were real, you take real hits, you’re on your toes.”