The story of the everyman who took on Muhammad Ali in a 1975 title fight is being developed for the big screen by the man who highlighted the tale with the 2011 documentary film The Real Rocky. Filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig is writing the script for The Bleeder, along with Jerry Stahl (Bad Boys II) and Michael Cristofer (Casanova), and Deadline reports that Philippe Falardeau (The Good Lie) is taking the helm. In addition, Liev Schreiber is now confirmed as filling the lead role of professional heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner, whose lengthy and notable career led to his acquisition of the nickname The Bayonne Bleeder.
The former U.S Marine had a mixed record in terms of successful appearances in the ring, when he got a shot at challenging the already legendary Muhammad Ali for the world’s Heavyweight title – a match that took place on March 24th 1975, at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. Wepner shocked the world when he knocked Ali down in the ninth round – although photographic evidence later confirmed Ali’s claim that this was caused by Wepner standing on his foot at that moment, rather than by Wepner’s punch. Ali recovered from the hit, however, and rebounded to knock Wepner down just 19 seconds from the final bell of round 15.
Wepner eventually retired from the sport in 1978, but made headlines again when he was arrested by the FBI in 2002, and given probation, for selling forgeries of Muhammad Ali’s autograph. Today, Wepner and his wife, Linda, work in liquor distribution, but sold the rights to Wepner’s story some ten years ago. The Bleeder apparently represents something of a passion project for Schreiber, who will also serve as producer on the film – said to focus on the fighter’s attempt at dealing with sudden fame, as much as his clash with Ali.
Production is reportedly about to begin, though few other casting choices have been announced so far. Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts is set to play Wepner’s wife, Linda, while Emmy nominee Christina Hendricks is also rumoured for an undisclosed role. The Bleeder joins a rising tide of boxing movies, which includes the recent Southpaw, and the upcoming Creed, starring Michael B. Jordan. With performers such as Schreiber, Watts and Hendricks already involved, however, this project could well be headed for awards season recognition.