Will Smith To Carry Muhammad Ali’s Coffin At Funeral Today

Stacey Cole - Author
By

Jun. 9 2016, Updated 11:43 p.m. ET

Will Smith posted a heart-wrenching tribute to Muhammad Ali after his recent death, according to Billboard. The 47-year-old I Am Legend actor posted the tribute on Facebook a day after the boxing legend passed away after battling Parkinson’s disease for 32 years.

In the Facebook tribute, Will Smith wrote that Ali shook up the world, calling him “My Mentor & My Friend” and saying that the legend, who died at the age of 74 on Friday, changed his life.

Will Smith has had quite a history with Ali, as the actor received an Oscar nomination for playing Ali in Michael Mann’s 2001 movie titled Ali. Ali was once asked by Oprah Winfrey what were his thoughts about Smith’s portrayal of him. And all Ali said was, “He scared me.”

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Will Smith revealed to Oprah that playing Ali in the movie was “the greatest” experience of his life.

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“The champ looked at me and gave me the nod that I did a good job. I worked as hard as I could possibly have worked.”

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Will Smith and Ali became close during filming for the film, and Ali called Smith “a perfect actor” in his interview with ABC News. In fact, Ali went as far as saying the greatest compliment that can be given to an actor who portrays a real person.

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“I even thought he was me.”

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In 2015, Will Smith was the presenter of the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award at Sports Illustrated magazine’s annual Sportsperson of the Year event. While giving the award to Jack Nicklaus, the actor praised Ali, saying he got to wear Muhammad Ali’s greatness while portraying him in Ali, adding that he got the opportunity to study and embody the soul of the Champ.

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“From the foundations of Islam and the strength of his Muslim faith and his life to the beautiful wake that he always leaves in his magnificent path.”

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Will Smith received boxing training for nearly two years to portray Ali. The actor not only learned how to fight like the champ, but also rehearsed Ali’s accent and tried to embody the champ’s soul.

Will Smith will be among pallbearers at Ali’s funeral, according to Us Magazine. Former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, as well as Ali’s sparring partner Jerry Ellis, who is Jimmy Ellis’ brother, will join the Concussion actor in carrying the coffin of the champ.

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Apart from Will Smith, Lewis, and Ellis, the other pallbearers will include Ali’s family and close friends. The memorial service will be held in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, on June 10. The memorial service will be live streamed, with some high-profile celebrities and world leaders expected to show up at the funeral.

In other Will Smith news, Independence Day: Resurgence director Roland Emmerich felt “half-hearted” about directing the Independence Day sequel after Will Smith refused to star in the movie, according to the Mirror. In fact, the movie nearly didn’t get made because of Smith’s refusal to join the cast.

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The director admitted that he was discouraged by Will Smith’s refusal to appear in the sequel. And the reason the star of the original 1996 blockbuster movie couldn’t join the case was bad timing.

Just when Will Smith finished filming Men In Black 3, Emmerich and scriptwriter Dean Devlin sent the script to the I Am Legend actor. But he was working on his film After Earth at the time, so it was “the worst possible moment,” the director recalled.

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“By then, he was shooting After Earth in Puerto Rico. And he called and said, ‘Guys, I cannot do three science-fiction movies in a row.'”

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[Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images]

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