The Greatest is getting into the ring for Peacock. The NBCUniversal streaming service is developing Excellence: 8 Fights, a scripted eight-part event series about three-time world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, based on author Jonathan Eig’s biography Ali: A Life. Oscar-winning BlacKkKlansman co-writer Kevin Willmott is behind the project from producers Eig, Morgan Freeman (Madam Secretary) and Lori McCreary’s (Invictus) Revelations Entertainment, with Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves) also on board as producer but not currently attached to star. Deadline first reported the news.
The synopsis, according to Deadline: 8 Fights “chronicles eight distinct and defining moments in Ali’s iconic life. Each episode will be framed by one of his fights, but the essence of the episode, what it’s really about, is the internal fight – the drama outside the ring. It will explore the struggle going on in the heart and mind of one of the most consequential and controversial figures of the 20th century.”
Previously developed for CBS All Access in 2018 before that streamer became Paramount+, the adaptation of Eig’s book is “a longtime passion project” for CBS Studios and Revelations, the production arm that aims to “reveal truth” in scripted and non-scripted films and series. CBS Studios (Criminal Minds, The Good Wife, Madam Secretary) and Universal’s UCP (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Mr. Robot, Quantum Leap) are the studios.
The series was reworked as 8 Fights with Willmott joining the project as writer-executive producer and Page as executive producer. Willmott’s credits include the Spike Lee-directed Da 5 Bloods and Chi-Raq, the documentary Fast Break: The Legendary John McLendon, army drama The 24th, and Jayhawkers, a college basketball sports-drama set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement.
Will Smith delivered an Oscar-nominated performance as the champion fighter in 2001’s Ali, written and directed by Michael Mann. In 2013, HBO premiered the original movie Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, about nine Supreme Court justices sparring over the legitimacy of Ali’s conscientious objector appeal during the Vietnam War.
Excellence: 8 Fights will stream on Peacock. A release date for the eight-part event series is TBA.