HARDEST Hit – Movie Star’s INTENSE Role!

American actor, rapper and media personality Will Smith speaks at the "Gemini Man" movie release conference in Shanghai, China, 14 October 2019.

Will Smith, during a recent conversation on First We Feast’s Hot Ones, reminisced about filming the 2001 biopic Ali, and recalled a very painful but memorable experience.

In the film, Smith portrayed world champion boxing legend Muhammad Ali. During a training session on set, Smith says that he received the hardest hit he’s ever experienced on a film. It was delivered by Michael Bentt, who portrayed Sonny Liston in the movie. 

Smith said that his trainer was working with him on his stance, and was trying to show Smith how to properly angle his spine forward. Smith said that he was having trouble, then he decided just to go for it and he leaned forward towards Bentt, his scene partner. Bentt instinctively responded with a punch. Smith saw the punch coming and ducked his head, and Bentt’s punch landed square on his head.

The blow, Smith said, didn’t knock his head back, it shoved his skull back into his neck, compressing his neck down into his spine. He experienced what felt like an electrical shock traveling down the back of both his arms and into his elbows.

Despite the high-impact experience of making the film, Smith had nothing but praise in his reminiscences of director Michael Mann’s commitment to authenticity.

Mann, Smith said, wouldn’t allow any music on set which was released after the date that the film’s scene was set on, so as to keep actors in mind of the period and the feel of the historical times. He was, Smith said, absolutely wild about capturing the authenticity in the film’s great moments.

Smith was recruited to star in the biopic in 1998, but the project lacked a director. After gaining some interest from Ron Howard, who later dropped out, and then from Barry Sonnenfeild who also left the project, Michael Mann was tapped following his Oscar nomination for The Insider. The Smith/Mann collaboration made big waves and helped Smith establish his reputation as a serious actor as well as a bankable leading man.