Actress Regina King’s directorial debut, a film that imagines what a nighttime conversation would be like between four real-life African-American icons, recently hit streaming platforms. A Night in Miami is set up from an evening between the following real historical figures: Malcolm X, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Sam Cooke and Jim Brown. Why would it be important to have such personalities in one place?
According to historical records (via), it ran on the night of February 25, 1964. At the Miami Beach Convention Hall, the confrontation of Muhammad Ali – at that time still known as Cassius Clay – was held against Sonny Listion, a historic night where the first one became the world champion of that year within the sporting framework of boxing.
Malcolm X was there to support Clay with whom he shared a strong friendship, in addition to cultural, religious and political alignments. Also in the audience was then-musical star Sam Cooke for the same purpose. And finally, among the commentators for the event’s radio broadcast was NFL running back Jim Brown.
At the end of the fight, the four headed to a hotel room where they celebrated Ali’s triumph. The meeting was behind closed doors and, to the assumptions of what they could chat in private, is that A Night in Miami is hosted. The film, like the play on which it is based, proposes a private exchange of discussions about religion, politics and racial reflections that reveal each of these men, located from different fronts of the same cultural struggle.
Who were and what did each of these personalities do in life? Meet the real characters from A Night in Miami.
Although One Night in Miami has a kind of choral cast, one of the real characters who takes the reins and constantly ignites the spark of the debate is El-Hajj Malik El-Shabaz, better known as Malcolm X. This character is described in any history book as one of the most influential African-Americans in American history. He was a speaker, a religious minister of Islam, but above all an activist who believed that the fight against racism would win victory only through the revolutionary path and the creation of a separatist nation that included the creation of a black nationalism.
Unlike other African American activists such as Martin Luther King whose reform proposals were based on the peaceful integration of black and white alike, Malcolm considered such proposals to be condescending and would do little to change the situation of racism within the country.
An important characteristic of Malcolm X was his religious ideals attached to Islam, of which he was a strong promoter. Precisely Malcolm is credited with the conversion of Cassius Clay, who after turning towards Islam changed his name to Muhammad Ali. The film unveils an important section of this narrative.
Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965, almost a year after the events shown in One Night in Miami, where he is portrayed by actor Kingsley Ben-Adir.
Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay)
Born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, he was an African-American boxer from the United States famous for his contribution to the sport, but also because he became an icon of the black community during the 1960s. His expertise in the sport of boxing, and winning the gold medal at the 1960 Olympics, placed him in the mouth of the American people.
His boxing technique was always far from traditionalism and with 22 years of age he became the world heavyweight champion. He was the first to win the linear boxing and undisputed heavyweight championship three times in 1964, 1967, and 1974. The night of the movie focuses on the first of those championships.
Beyond sports, Ali was an influential figure during the 1960s when he opposed being drafted into his country’s armed forces during the Vietnam War era. He was one of the most famous conscientious objectors in his country and also a fervent believer and promoter of the Islamic religion. He died of Parkinson’s disease in 2016.
Ali is portrayed in A Night in Miami by Eli Goree.
Cooke began his music career as a gospel singer, but later used his momentum to become a music star focused on pop, soul, rythm and blues. Although an African American singer was not irregular during the 1960s, Cooke was a different figure within the industry because he also held the title of music producer and even businessman. He founded his own record company SAR Records.
To date, many consider him as the king of soul and although at first he focused on the production of great musical hits that dealt with common themes such as romance and nightlife, later he made some compositions of denunciation and protest that became into icons for the African American community. Issues perhaps inspired by his active role within the Civil Rights Movement and after the murder of his friend Malcolm X.
The film proposes the motivations of the character from the hand of actor Leslie Odom Jr.
The one considered the best running back of all time on a football field is undoubtedly Jim Brown. He lived his greatest stage as a sports star during the late 1950s and a good part of the 1960s. For nine consecutive seasons, Jim Brown was responsible for the greatest rushing and combined yardage records when he played for the Cleveland Browns.
His career took a dramatic turn when years later he decided to progressively abandon the sport to become a movie star. One night in Miami, he delves into an explanation behind that decision and the actor who brings it to life on the screen is Aldis Hodge.
On the NFL’s list of the greatest players of all time, good old Brown ranks second.
A Night in Miami is available via Amazon Prime. You can read the review of Cine PREMIERE here.
One Night in Miami real characters Regina King One Night in Miami
Luis Angel H Mora My letter from Hogwarts never arrived, so I focused my life on the cinema. I like writing, Harry Potter, Doctor Who and the parties I get to be an astrologer. John Williams and The Killers musicalize the drama of my life.