Bruce Willis is playing boxing trainer Constantine 'Cus' D'Amato in the drama Cornerman. The film will take place in 1980s New York and explore how D'Amato - by then famous for training champion fighters like Floyd Patterson and José Torres - found and mentored future heavyweight champion Mike Tyson (who was only a teenager at the time). Cornerman will further serve as the feature directing debut for Homeland and Hitman: Agent 47 star Rupert Friend, who will draw from his own script.
Friend's boxing drama is one of several high-profile projects that will be presented to potential international distributors when the 71st Cannes Film Festival begins tomorrow (Tuesday, May 8). Among the films that will join Cornerman in the hunt for international backers are the all-female spy thriller 355, which is based on an idea from Jessica Chastain (who is costarring); Leonard Bernstein biopic The American, which Jake Gyllenhaal is headlining and Cary Fukunaga is directing; and the Liam Neeson-led political thriller Charlie Johnson in the Flames, based on the novel by Michael Ignatieff.
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According to Variety, CAA will handle the U.S. rights to Cornerman while IMR International oversees sales to foreign territories at Cannes. The role of young Mike Tyson (who will be 13 around the start of the film) has not yet been cast, but the movie is already set to begin production this fall. Friend, meanwhile, has issued the following statement regarding his vision for the film:
“Ultimately, this is a story about a deep love between two ferocious talents, each brave enough to admit their fears to the other, and so spur one another to greatness. It is a story about fighting for what you believe in, and a film that will make you question what strength really is.”
Willis, for his part, has been mostly relegated to direct-to-video fare in recent years. He has further struggled to regain the dramatic credibility that he enjoyed in 2012 - when he appeared in Moonrise Kingdom and Looper back to back - and his performance in this year's Death Wish did little to reverse Willis' image as a faded action star. That said, the actor could be on a verge of a comeback thanks to his upcoming roles in both M. Night Shymalan's Unbreakable/Split sequel Glass and Cornerman. There's something particularly fitting about Willis playing an aging icon who gains a newfound purpose in Friend's boxing drama, for that reason.
It should also be noted that Cornerman is a different project than the Mike Tyson biopic that Jamie Foxx has been trying to get off the ground for awhile. Early last year, Foxx said Martin Scorsese was still attached to direct the film, but there's been little movement to report on that front since then. Still, if Cornerman makes a splash when it hits scene (presumably) next year, that could help to get Foxx's Tyson biopic back up and running.
We will bring you more details on Cornerman as they become available.