There's already a ton of early Oscar buzz for One Night in Miami, the big-screen directorial debut of Oscar-winning actress, producer and director, Regina King. It gives a fictional account of a real-life night featuring a Cassius Clay (before he became Muhammad Ali, played by Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir). As our Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) review reads, “King brings legends together for a timely debut with a lot of heart."
Shadow and Act has two exclusive photos from the film, depicting Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown and Eli Goree as Cassius Clay. We also spoke with Hodge ahead of the film's TIFF premiere, as he previewed the project and talked about its impact.
Speaking on the increasing timeliness of the project, Hodge told us, “We already knew where we were culturally, but the static wasn't as explosive as it currently when we were shooting it. We were shooting this between November and January, and within that short time span of a few months, we all see what has happened. For us, it was like, ‘How much better could the timing have been? I remember watching the film, and of course, shooting it, you're like, ‘Oh, this is special. It means something.' But watching the film now, after everything we've been through, it just hit so much different and a little bit deeper. And you're like, how in the world could it have aligned in this way? It's crazy."
Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown in 'One Night in Miami' | Photo: Amazon Studios
According to Hodge, he opted not to audition for the film several times. “Funny enough, I got the opportunity for the audition a couple of times and I actually turned it down initially a couple of times. And that was because I didn't know if I would be able to adequately do Mr. Brown justice. As an actor, of course, I want to eat up every opportunity, but at the same time, I want to be responsible and check where I feel like I can be effective. And you know, this is this man's life. This is his image. If I don't feel confident enough to do it justice...I was like I don't know. But my mama always says what's for you is for you. The opportunity to audition kept coming back around. And it came down to a point where they were like, yo, Regina wants to see you read. And I was like, so I'm not about to be the dude that tells Regina no, I'm not about to be that guy [laughs]. And it honestly turned out to be something better than I ever could have imagined. So don't walk away from your blessings and then they show up in disguise."
Regardless, this would have been a timely project, but it became even more so in light of the fatal police violence in the United States over the past few months. A good portion of the conversations that take place between these four legends in the film deal with Malcolm X wanting his friends with public platforms to use their influence in music and sports for the greater good. While watching, it is hard to not be reminded of the recent protests by professional athletes.
For Hodge, the timing is uncanny. “It feels like a great privilege. It feels like sort of a serendipitous opportunity. I've been in the game for a while finding out who I am and what I'm trying to give to the craft. And several years ago, I sort of stuck with [the idea that] I want to produce effective art. That's what I want to do in anything that I touch. It could be entertaining for the sake of entertainment, it could be politically provocative or culturally enlightening, but I want to produce something that has a meaning and a stance. So whenever you come across a project like this, this is really lucky. How many times in my life will I have an opportunity to be a part of a project like this, especially in a time like this?"
Eli Goree as Cassius Clay in 'One Night in Miami' | Photo: Amazon Studios
“I cannot wait for this to drop. Can it come out yesterday?" he joked. “And there's another element to it as well, is that I believe in what we do, we are always in a position of service as artists, particularly in the field of entertainment, because, we create something...we give it to our audience. It is theirs at that moment for them to do with what they will, and to be in service in this particular way is incredible. These conversations, I speak on this regularly in my daily life, because you know, as Black people, this is a normal conversation for us to have. We've always had this conversation and many varying ways. And I love the fact that these four brothers sit here and they can help to teach [us] how to have the conversation with love, with respect, [and] teach [us] how to have disagreements and differences."
One Night in Miami is set to be released by Amazon Studios in the coming months. You can expect more Shadow and Act coverage from the film then.