Sugar Ray Leonard has been a legend as long as I’ve been conscious of pop culture. One of the reasons I am constantly amazed that I am paid actual money to do what I do is because so much of what I do involves satisfying deeply personal desires. The fact that I get paid is almost incidental.
When I was growing up in the ’70s, boxing was very different in terms of the way it was handled by the media, and Sugar Ray Leonard was a superstar. When I was first told that he was involved in “Real Steel,” that was the first reason I was willing to go to the set. I wanted to see what it meant to have someone like Leonard involved in a big-budget movie where CGI robots beat the crap out of each other. What I saw on-set was an ambitious new step in performance capture technology, and I ended up sitting down with Leonard to talk about his role in that process.
I’ll also have an interview for you tomorrow with Hugh Jackman and the film’s director, Shawn Levy, and they’ll explain more about their approach to this adaptation of the Richard Matheson story “Steel,” which was also adapted into an episode of “The Twilight Zone” many years ago.
This time around, Jeremy Leven, Dan Gilroy and John Gatins wrote the thing, and when I went to visit, the production was located in Detroit, Michigan. It was a great trip, and one of the things that was interesting was that I was the only movie journalist there that day. Everyone else on the trip was a sports journalist there to shoot a cameo in one particular sequence, and I was the only person who stayed back, observing. Since the sports press is long-since-over the idea of talking to Leonard, our conversation was one of the liveliest of the day.
I would also like to point out that this man was a professional fighter when I was five years old, and yet he and I look the same age in this interview. I have made terrible, terrible choices, obviously.
I want to thank Disney for inviting me on the trip, and I think family audiences are going to be in for a treat when it arrives in theaters on October 7, 2011.