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Will Smith’s boxing trainer on extreme lengths he went to for film Ali

Will Smith, Ali

Will Smith’s boxing trainer for his movie Ali has revealed the tough lengths the actor went to to train for the role (Picture: Rex / Getty)

Boxing trainer Darrell Foster has revealed the extreme lengths he made Will Smith go to in preparation for 2001 movie Ali.

Will, 52, played late boxing legend Mohammad Ali, who died at the age of 74 in 2016, in the film, and the actor once fell to his knees as he was so exhausted during training for the project.

Darrell trained former boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard for 18 years and has coached a number of big names for movies, including Woody Harrelson, Antonio Banderas and Eddie Murphy.

Darrell explained to NME that he took the TV and film star to an altitude of 10,000 feet in ski resort Aspen in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains so Will could experience breathlessness due to the thinner air at that height, similar to what Mohammad went through during his fights.

The trainer said: ‘I took Will up to 10,000 feet in Aspen, Colorado so he could understand what it felt like to experience oxygen deprivation in order to correlate it to how Ali felt in the 14th round with [former world heavyweight champion] Joe Frazier and how it feels to actually not be able to breathe and you’ve still gotta keep fighting.’

Will Smith, Darrell Foster

Will trained with boxing trainer Darrell Foster for the 2001 film (Picture: Eric Charbonneau/REX/Shutterstock)

‘I made Will run and throw punches. He fell to his knees and I made him write Ali’s name in the snow. And he said: “Now I get it.”‘

He added that Mohammad himself was also brought on set to help Will with his performance, with the boxer directing him how to speak in the same way as him.

Meanwhile, it was claimed earlier this month that Will almost lost the opportunity to star in Independence Day as movie bosses were concerned with whether he could sell tickets for the film.

Will portrays world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali in the film (Picture: Getty)

Will played Captain Steven Hiller in the 1996 flick which tells the story of an alien attack which destroys cities around the world.

Screenwriter Dean Devlin told The Hollywood Reporter: ‘The one character we had in our mind from day one was Jeff Goldblum.

‘As we were working on the script, I would do my Jeff Goldblum imitation. Then we were basing his father [Judd Hirsch’s Julius] off of my grandfather, who was also named Julius.’

Director Roland Emmerich chimed in: ‘Ethan Hawke was on our list too, but I thought at that time he was too young.

‘It was pretty clear it had to be Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. That was the combo we thought. The studio said, “No, we don’t like Will Smith. He’s unproven. He doesn’t work in international [markets]”.’

Dean added: ‘They said, “You cast a black guy in this part, you’re going to kill foreign [box office]”. Our argument was, “Well, the movie is about space aliens. It’s going to do fine foreign”. It was a big war, and Roland [Emmerich] really stood up for [Smith] — and we ultimately won that war.’

The project went ahead as planned with Will cast in the role after Roland ‘put his foot down’ and threatened to take it to rival studio Universal.

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