Category: One Night in Miami
CNN: A fascinating historical meeting of the minds provides the foundation for Regina King’s impressive feature film directorial debut in “One Night in Miami,” a creative extrapolation about Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke coming together in 1964. It’s a small but riveting movie, anchored by a quartet of knockout performances.
Adapted by Kemp Powers from his play (he’s having quite a year, having just co-directed Pixar’s “Soul”), the story hinges on Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, who recently played Barack Obama in Showtime’s “The Comey Rule”) trying to recruit high-profile converts to Islam, using Ali (Eli Goree), then still Cassius Clay, as his point of entry.
The boxer has just won the heavyweight title when he and friends gather in a Florida hotel room. Rounding out the foursome are star NFL running back Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and crooner Sam Cooke (“Hamilton’s” Leslie Odom Jr.), who are skeptical about Malcolm X’s pitch, if only because of what it would mean, they joke, about giving up porkchops and drinking.
What ensues is a timely conversation about the civil-rights struggle, the conflicting demands of celebrity, and the benefits and dangers associated with leveraging one’s platform to speak out. That discussion has played out across the decades every time a singer, actor or athletes dares to venture into the world of activism.
“Strike with the weapon that you have: Your voice,” Malcolm urges Cooke, who is well aware of fame’s fickle nature, especially when crossing over to entertain White audiences.
Already much decorated as an actor, King opens up the movie beyond its stage roots during the early scenes, before becoming more theatrical and somewhat claustrophobic once the group settles into the hotel. There’s a clear urgency in Malcolm’s mission, given the internal politics he faces within the Nation of Islam. He would be assassinated a year later.
What really makes the movie are the strengths of the performances, which manage to get beyond mere impersonation. At the same time, Odom’s renditions of Cooke’s songs prove staggeringly accurate, as does Goree’s grasp of Ali’s physicality and poetry — no small feat on either score. The only shame awards-wise is the potential self-canceling quality in trying to single out one or two for praise.
As for Hodge’s Brown, he appears clear-eyed regarding the limits of his gridiron stardom as he contemplates becoming a full-time actor, a point bluntly made when he visits with an old admirer (Beau Bridges) in the beginning of the film.
Powers described the original play as “an imagining of what may have happened that night,” so be forewarned the drama comes with a heavy dollop of artistic license. But that approach allows “One Night in Miami” to address issues that resonated not just through the tumultuous 1960s but have continued to be litigated through the present, marking early salvos in a culture war that never ended.
“One Night in Miami” delivers a concentrated taste of that, but like its newly crowned champ, somehow manages to gracefully float through its history, while still packing a potent dramatic punch.
“One Night in Miami” premieres Jan. 8 in select theaters and Jan. 15 on Amazon. It’s rated R.
Oscar winner Regina King directs the film, based on Olivier nominee Kemp Powers’ stage play.
PLAYBILL: Check out the latest trailer for One Night in Miami…, featuring Hamilton Tony winner Leslie Odom, Jr. as singer Sam Cooke, above. The film, based on the 2013 stage play by Olivier nominee Kemp Powers (who also penned the screenplay), marks Oscar and Emmy winner Regina King’s feature directorial debut.
One Night in Miami… also features Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X, Eli Goree as Cassius Clay, and Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown. Rounding out the cast are 2020 Tony nominee Joaquina Kalukango, Nicolette Robinson, Beau Bridges, and Lance Reddick.
Amazon Studios releases the film in select U.S. theatres January 8 and on Prime Video January 15. The movie made its premiere in Miami December 25.
Set on the night of February 25, 1964, One Night in Miami… follows a young Cassius Clay (before he became Muhammad Ali) as he emerges from the Miami Beach Convention Center the new World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Clay, unable to stay on the island because of Jim Crow-era segregation laws, spends the night at the Hampton House Motel in one of Miami’s historically Black neighborhoods celebrating with three of his closest friends: activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke, and football star Jim Brown.
Producers are Jess Wu Calder and Keith Calder of Snoot Entertainment and Jody Klein of ABKCO; King and Powers are executive producers. Chris Harding and Paul O. Davis also executive produce.
The film also features the original song “Speak Now,” written by Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashford, and performed by Odom, Jr.; ABKCO will release the original soundtrack in conjunction with the film.
Press: Regina King makes an engrossing directorial debut with a film about the meeting of four Black legends
THE WASHINGTON POST: Regina King makes an assured feature directing debut with “One Night in Miami,” an engrossing adaptation of Kemp Powers’s 2013 stage play.
In that well-received drama, Powers wrote about what might have happened on Feb. 25, 1964, when a cocky young boxer named Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight championship; later that night Clay, Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X, pop singer Sam Cooke and NFL star Jim Brown gathered in a hotel room to celebrate. No one knows for sure what they talked about, but Powers concocted a riveting piece of historically grounded speculation, in which the four men debate Clay’s decision to become a Muslim, the political advantages of assimilation versus revolution, the responsibilities of Black men to their communities, and why vanilla ice cream is no match for a flask full of whiskey.
The vanilla ice cream, by the way, is one of the few facts known about the evening that inspired “One Night in Miami” — it was offered as a refreshment by the gathering’s host, Malcolm X, whose religion forbade anything stronger. As the night plays out, tensions rise as the four men — all, it should be remembered, in their 20s and 30s — joke and argue, tease and provoke. Although Brown and Cooke are skeptical of Malcolm’s sway over Clay, emotions truly come to a boil when Malcolm confronts Cooke over his music, making an unflattering comparison to Bob Dylan, the White man who had written the era’s most stirring anthem of dissent.
Powers’s script can’t help but suffer from expository starchiness, having to educate present-day viewers about what may feel like ancient history. That makes it all the more crucial to find actors who can deliver the lines with unforced ease, and King has found just the right ensemble. The British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir plays Malcolm X with a convincing combination of reflection, fury and growing anxiety (he is harboring his own doubts about the Nation of Islam and is all too aware of the men who have him under surveillance outside the hotel); Leslie Odom Jr. effortlessly sinks into Cooke’s charismatic persona, while he soars into the singer’s distinctively honeyed tenor; Aldis Hodge inhabits Brown with imposing, watchful confidence; and Eli Goree brings just the right amount of humor and poetic cadence to his exuberant portrayal of Clay, who at one point does a double-take in front of a mirror, saying, “My goodness. Why am I so pretty?”
As a filmed version of a play, “One Night in Miami” has the same talky, slightly claustrophobic contours one might expect. But that pent-up quality is an advantage for a movie in which the room where it might have happened is a character in itself. The Hampton House Motel was a famous way station for African Americans traveling during the days of segregation; here, production designer Barry Robison gives it an attractive mid-century sheen, amped up by Terence Blanchard’s silky musical score and Tami Reiker’s lush cinematography. In both its verbal sparring and mounting unease, “One Night in Miami” resembles the recent Netflix adaptation of “The Boys in the Band” — another period piece that gives viewers the sense that they’re eavesdropping on a conversation taking place both amid and beyond the reach of societal oppression.
To her credit, King takes a few judicious opportunities to open up the action in “One Night in Miami,” which includes scenes on the motel’s rooftop and a nearby package store, as well as an electrifying flashback to one of Cooke’s concerts. Most powerfully, she gives each protagonist a prologue, telegraphing where each man is in his personal and political evolution. Jim Brown’s chapter is the most potent in the collection, following him as he visits his hometown of St. Simons Island, Ga., and pays a call to an elderly friend played by Beau Bridges. King takes her time with the scene, allowing it to play out with the relaxed rhythms of a sunny afternoon on the front porch, before delivering a finale that lands like a punch to the gut. It’s a masterful piece of cinema — a self-contained film within a film — and it signals that King’s directorial career is off to an exceptionally promising start.
The actor, who has been dreaming of a superhero role for years, didn’t quite believe it when he landed Hawkman: “It was literally like what I imagined winning the lottery to feel like.”
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Despite taking place in 1964, One Night in Miami felt eerily similar to present day, according to Aldis Hodge. In Regina King’s feature directorial debut, Hodge plays NFL legend Jim Brown who’s introduced in the film during a return trip to his hometown of St. Simons Island, Georgia. Upon his arrival, Jim visits the plantation-like estate of his neighbor, Mr. Carlton (Beau Bridges), who seemingly welcomes Brown onto his porch for a glass of lemonade and some small talk. Even though he was proud to say that he was from the same island as the great Jim Brown, Carlton quickly bowled Brown over when he casually referred to him as a racial slur and denied his entry into the house. Unfortunately, for Hodge, his family and so many others, this scene hit awfully close to home.
“I’ve never really been swayed by the rose-colored glasses perspective. What Jim went through in that particular scene is something I’ve been through and many of my family members have been through,” Hodge tells The Hollywood Reporter. “There are so many people who don’t understand cultural empathy and don’t necessarily prioritize it, and they think that there’s nothing wrong. So that scene showed the truth of the ugliness of what a lot of us have been dealing with for so long and what a lot of us are dealing with on the forefront right now, directly. We have to push through people’s ignorance to get to our own truth.”
In September, Hodge landed his biggest role to date as he will portray Hawkman/Carter Hall in Dwayne Johnson and DC Films’ superhero epic, Black Adam. Earning a superhero role has been a long time coming for Hodge since he’s spent the last 15 years auditioning for such roles. As a result, when Johnson called to deliver the news, he initially thought it was a prank call. And once Johnson convinced him that it was actually “D.J.,” Hodge then assumed he was calling to deliver bad news.
“There was some part of my brain that said, ‘He’s calling to tell me that I didn’t get the job.’ So I was preparing for that while I was in a state of disbelief. And when he said, ‘Welcome to Black Adam,’ it was literally like what I imagined winning the lottery to feel like,” Hodge shares. “I had been very, very much looking forward to being a part of any kind of superhero universe. I didn’t care what it was for such a long time just because I had been such a fan. I grew up on graphic novels. I got into the business so I could earn money to buy Batman toys, you know? It was like 13 to 15 years of constantly going up to bat and getting told no. So it really was a validation of those last few years of pursuit, hustle and preparation.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Hodge also reflects on the valuable advice that Samuel L. Jackson gave his family on the set of Die Hard with a Vengeance, the disturbing ending of The Invisible Man and going toe to toe with Kyle Chandler on Friday Night Lights.
To put it mildly, it’s been a challenging year, but your career is thriving in spite of everything. What’s this year been like for you in that regard?
Well, it’s twofold. Professionally, it gives me a sense of appreciation in a time where there’s still so many people not working. And of course, for a time, my industry was down and we all weren’t working. So to be in this position and to have the best professional year of my 32-year career is really kind of insane, but I look at it as a reminder to maintain faith and gratitude. At the same time, I’m now put in a position to help, so I’ve got to figure out what the real mission is. There’s a reason I’ve been blessed with this kind of opportunity in this particular time, and I have to use it responsibly. It’s also coupled with the experience of so much loss and so much pain that we’re not removed from, given this year. My family has experienced quite a bit of emotional and personal hardship, so that’s not lost on me. I’m just in a better position to have access to more options to do some work. Beyond the TV, beyond the movies, it’s not about that. That’s not the work. The work is representation and creating opportunities. I used my advantages this year to try to make as many opportunities as possible for myself and the people around me.
One Night in Miami introduces each character by showing what they’re up against in early 1964. And during Jim Brown’s introduction, he, along with the audience, were lulled into a false sense of security as things took a very sharp turn via Beau Bridges’ character. When you first read that scene in the script, did you have a similar experience given its sudden swerve?