The daughter of Muhammad Ali gave Will Smith props for his portrayal of the iconic athlete in Ali, and she loved it so much that the family made Smith a pallbearer.
Laila Ali said that Smith’s role was so moving, she forgot it was an actor playing her dad.
“He appreciated the great job that Will Smith did playing him. My father appreciates the role that Will Smith played,” Laila told Entertainment Tonight. “I thought that he did a phenomenal job as an actor. I was surprised that he did so well, ’cause that’s my father. And for moments, I was watching, I really got into it, you know? You forget that it’s Will Smith, so that’s a great job as an actor.”
“My father had a big impact on [Smith’s] life,” she said, calling the decision to make the actor a pallbearer at her father’s funeral “very special.”
“He did a tremendous job playing that role, and he will forever be associated with my father, because as an actor, that’s kind of a spiritual thing, playing Muhammad Ali — and being able to do it so well. Channel that energy that he needed to bring to that role.”
Laila also expressed gratitude that Smith’s movie about her father is being rereleased in the wake of his death.
“I’m happy that they’re going to be showing that movie again for anyone who didn’t see it the first time,” she shared. “I think the story of Muhammad Ali is something that everyone should hear. This generation now, they don’t really know who he is and why he’s so loved.”
Watch the video below for footage of Smith training for this role of a lifetime. Muhammad Ali himself comes in around 2:27.
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