“I felt I would be doing a rerun”: Working With Will Smith Made Heat Director Give Up $213M Leonardo DiCaprio Movie, Chose to Work With Tom Cruise Instead

Will Smith, the man who showcased his chaotic side to the world back in 2022, had once starred in a controversial movie back in 2001. The movie titled Ali was directed by notable director Michael Mann and the premise of the movie was quite controversial and yet amazing at the same time.

After Ali, Michael Mann was very interested in directing The Aviator. Working with Will Smith, however, made him exhausted as he felt it would be just a rerun of Ali. The director gave up on the project and chose to work with Tom Cruise instead for Collateral.

Will Smith in Michael Mann's Ali (2001)Will Smith in Michael Mann’s Ali (2001)

When Michael Mann Was Exhausted By Working With Will Smith

Back in 2001, Michael Mann showcased Will Smith as a boxer who reached new heights by his conversion to a different religion. The film was quite controversial, falling under the category of drama/historical drama, and yet managed to garner quite a fame.

A still of Will Smith from Ali (2001)A still of Will Smith from Ali (2001)

Following the movie, Michael Mann wanted to work with Leonardo DiCaprio desperately. Finding himself attached to a 2004 project, Mann wanted to direct The Aviator eagerly but the director was exhausted. In an interview, Mann talked about how he had to let go of The Aviator since he felt it was just a rerun of his Will Smith movie, Ali.
“Usually I think I know what I’m going to look for next, and usually that turns out to be wrong. I felt I would be doing a rerun of what I’d just done.”

The director then moved on from the project and Martin Scorsese took over as director of the film. The Aviator featured the story of a man whose film about aviation became successful. Following his success, he pursued the aviation industry while the looming threat of a mental illness stayed behind him. Michael Mann chose to work with Tom Cruise instead, as he went on to direct Collateral.


Michael Mann Chose To Work With Tom Cruise Instead

Michael Mann CollateralMichael Mann with Jamie Foxx during the filming of Collateral

After opting out of his movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Mann found himself enamored with another project that featured Tom Cruise in the lead role. The director stated how he was drawn to the movie and why he made Collateral with the Top Gun actor.
“What attracted me to ‘Collateral’ was the opportunity to do the exact opposite: a microcosm; 12 hours; one night; no wardrobe changes; two people; small lives; inside a cab; a small time frame viewed large. I very much admired the hard, gem-like construction of Stuart Beattie’s screenplay.”
In the end, Michael Mann’s Ali, featuring Will Smith received a rating of 6.7/10 on IMDB and 68% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Will Smith starrer is available to stream on Starz in the U.S.

Source: DGA

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