Will Smith, who portrayed Muhammad Ali in the Oscar-nominated film Ali, will be a pallbearer at the boxer’s funeral along with retired fighter Lennox Lewis, according to NME.
Smith and Ali became close when the two worked together on the 2001 movie that earned Smith an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
In a 2001 interview with ABC, Ali gave his seal of approval while watching Smith rehearse.
Throughout the making of the film, Smith felt Ali’s imposing presence and the pressure to get it right. He asked Ali to give him three months before watching him rehearse.
He didn’t let Ali down. “He is a perfect actor,” the 59-year-old said. “I even thought he was me.”
While giving a speech in 2015, Smith talked about his relationship with Ali.
“For nearly two years, I worked to transform myself into the man who changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and shook up the world. And that’s really what makes my job so beautiful as an actor – for four, five months at a time I get to wear peoples’ lives. So I got to wear Muhammad Ali’s greatness. I got to study and feel and embody the soul of the man, from the foundations of Islam and the strength of his Muslim faith in his life, to the beautiful wake that he always leaves in his magnificent path.”
Ali’s funeral will be held Friday in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.