(L-R) Leslie Odom Jr., Eli Goree, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Aldis Hodge star in ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
Amazon Studios Present
Directed by: Regina King Starring: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr., Joaquina Kalukango, Nicolette Robinson with Beau Bridges & Lance Reddick Music by: Terence Blanchard Executive Producers: Regina King, Kemp Powers, Paul O. Davis, Chris Harding Producers: Jess Wu Calder, Keith Calder, Jody Klein Screenplay by:
Kemp Powers Based on the Stage Play “One Night In Miami…” by Kemp Powers
On one incredible night in 1964, four icons of sports, music, and activism gathered to celebrate one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. When underdog Cassius Clay, soon to be called Muhammad Ali, (Eli Goree), defeats heavyweight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Convention Hall, Clay memorialized the event with three of his friends: Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). Based on the award-winning play of the same name, and directed by Regina King, One Night In Miami… is a fictional account inspired by the historic night these four formidable figures spent together. It looks at the struggles these men faced and the vital role they each played in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 1960s. More than 40 years later, their conversations on racial injustice, religion, and personal responsibility still resonate. A Happy Accident and An Obsession The idea for the play which evolved into the movie One Night In Miami…came to Kemp Powers, who wrote the script for both the play and the movie, by accident and maybe by fate. “I stumbled across the idea while reading a book about the intersection of sports and the civil rights movement. It mentioned that following his first defeat of Sonny Liston, Cassius Clay, who would one day become Muhammad Ali, went back to the Hampton House Hotel in Overtown, Florida near Miami where he spent a quiet evening in conversation with friends Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown,” says Powers. “This was just a little paragraph in a book that kind of blew my mind at the time. I read that paragraph once, then I had to go back and read it a few more times and go, wait a minute.” That accident became an obsession. “I couldn’t get that paragraph out of my mind. After all, these were four of my heroes. I became very obsessed about this idea of discovering how these men met and why they were hanging out with one another,” explains Powers. “I read every biography I could on each of the four men. I dug up every interview that I could find. The more I learned about them, the more that it seemed natural that they would have been drawn to one another. They were unapologetic in their art. They were unapologetic in their political beliefs. And in the early 1960s to be a free, unapologetic Black man was quite a rarity.” Part of the reason Powers penned the play is the generational relevance of the conversation that took place in the Hampton House Hotel still has today. “I wrote the play because the lives of all four of these men speak to me. The debate and conversation they engage in during the stage play is actually the same debate that I would have in my dormitory with my friends when I was attending Howard University,” explains the writer. “It’s this question of what are the social responsibilities of an artist of color? Should I want to have social responsibilities? Can I just be an athlete? Can I just be a singer? Can I just be an
artist? Why do I always have to be a Black artist? And the question is, should you embrace that? Should you try to go away from it? And that was the discussion that I was having in the 1990s in my dormitory, and I’m sure that there’s a group of teenagers and young adults of color having that debate right now in their dormitory.” One Night in Miami, the play which is an imagining of what may have transpired that night, premiered at the Rogue Machine Theater in Los Angeles in June of 2013. The play’s premiere production garnered
three LA Drama Critics Circle Awards and four NAACP Theatre awards. Powers was awarded the Ted Schmitt Award for outstanding world premiere of a new play. After seeing one of those performances, Jody Klein became such a fan that he wanted to get involved with the play and became a producer of both the play and the film. “I met with Kemp and we hit it off right from the start and we decided to work together,” explains Klein. Film Producer Keith Calder of Snoot Entertainment along with his producing partner and wife, Jess Wu Calder, also saw One Night In Miami during its run at the Rogue Machine Theatre. “I first heard about the play from a friend of mine, who said it is amazing and it is right up mine and Jess’ alley. He knew we were already huge fans of Sam Cooke. We caught one of the last performances in its first run and we were just really blown away,” says Keith Calder. “The story of the friendship between Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, Jim Brown and Cassius Clay was electrifying. We knew immediately it could be a wonderful movie. We tracked down Kemp Powers to pitch him on the idea of doing it as a movie. Kemp and Jody Klein were both excited about the idea of doing the play as a movie. Jess and I convinced them we were the right partners for the project.” The Calders went on to see the play again in Miami and London. “We saw the power in what we saw on stage. It touched our hearts and it touched our souls,” says Jess Wu Calder. “We felt compelled to translate that power to the screen to reach an even wider audience and perhaps mobilize them to action with the hope of creating a better world for future generations.” Regina King’s Feature Film Directorial Debut Once the producers decided to move forward, they were next tasked with finding a director. During that time Regina King won her Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in If Beale Street Could Talk. She later won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the same film. “While we were trying to decide who the right director was for One Night In Miami…, Regina won her Golden Globe and started talking about what she wanted to do as a director and we were just blown away by her speech,” says Keith Calder. “We started reading more about Regina as a television director. We quickly realized that she was the dream pick.” Producers reached out to King’s agent and were told that for her feature film directorial debut she was actually looking for a project that was based on historical figures, that had an important message and could have strong performances. “Regina was already embodying everything the movie is trying to say. Luckily, she was passionate about Kemp’s script,” says Jess Wu Calder. “We knew from that initial meeting with her this would be a very special film if we could make it together.” “I knew I wanted to do the film because we don’t get the opportunity to see Black men celebrated in such a complex way that often in film and TV,” explains King. “Normally when we see Black men in film or on TV, we are not able to see them be vulnerable and strong at the same time. That is something I felt Kemp captured so amazingly well. I became a part of the project because I was so inspired by the script which gives the opportunity to explore and respect these men in a moment and truly see who they were as men beyond and behind their iconic images.” “Regina King came to us from up above – simple as that,” says Klein.