Boxer Joe Louis’ epic rivalry with Max Shmeling to be adapted for the silver screen

joe louis biopic boxing
Library of Congress

One of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time will be the focus of a new biopic currently in development. Producers Bill Duke, Gil Adler, and Joel Eisenberg have signed a deal to make a film about the legendary Joe Louis, reports Variety.

Born Joe Louis Barrow, Louis spent part of his childhood in rural Alabama before his family moved to Detroit, Michigan. In the midst of the Great Depression, Louis began competing as an amateur boxer, and then turned pro in the early 1930s. Over his career, Louis became a national hero and cultural icon, and is regarded as the first African-American to have done so. He held the world heavyweight title for over a decade.

The film is intended to focus on a symbolic set of fights between Louis and German boxer Max Schmeling that took place as the U.S. was on the cusp of World War II. The match-ups were seen as a battle between Nazi Germany’s ideals and American ones, so it was a huge blow when he lost the first in 1936. Two years later, however, the second fight was held, and that time, Louis emerged victorious, knocking Schmeling out early on.

“It remains to me the greatest true-life story never filmed to its potential,” Eisenberg told Variety. “This project has been a passion project of mine for 25 years.”

Eisenberg, Duke, and Adler will get their chance now, thanks to a deal made with Kirmser Ponturo Group. The group acquired Louis’ life rights from his son, Joe Louis Barrow II, in 2013, with the idea of creating a stage production. Barrow will get a production credit, shared with Duke, Eisenberg, and Adler.

Duke will direct the film, which is still currently untitled. He previously helmed Sister Act 2The Cemetery Club, and the documentary Dark Girls.