Irish Film: Lenny Abrahamson and Element to adapt biography of boxer Emile Griffith

With Room lighting up the festival circuit and gathering momentum into Oscar season, news comes via Deadline that Lenny Abrahamson is lining up another film, a biography of boxer Emile Griffith.

Griffith was a professional boxer from the U.S. Virgin Islands who became a world champion in the welterweight and middleweight classes. He is most famous for his 1962 title fight with Benny Paret, which resulted in Paret being knocked-out and dying 10 days later in hospital, having never recovered conciousness.

Abrahamson has a first look deal with Irish production Element Pictures, and Element producer Ed Guiney will work with him on this film. The pair have agreed a deal with Film4 to option the Donald McRae’s book, A Man’s World: The Double Life Of Emile Griffith.

[quote title=”Lenny Abrahamson (speaking to Deadline)”]It is so rich that it’s hard to know where to start. As a character study, Griffith is incredibly compelling. There was a gentleness and innocence about him, and he never seemed conflicted about his sexuality; indeed he found joy in it. He inhabited two worlds — the underground gay scene in New York in the ’60s and the macho world of boxing. The societal stigma at that time was dreadful and created a crushing pressure on him. You look at how closely his two worlds intersected,” Abrahamson said. “Just how different are they, when the sport is such a celebration of the male body and the beauty of its athleticism. Go one step further, and inject the tiniest sense of sexuality, and people are up in arms. Griffith himself once said a quote that just floored me. ‘They forgave me for killing a man, but they couldn’t forgive me for loving a man.’ That to me was so powerful and such a crazy contradiction. And it is still relevant today.[/quote]

It is believed that Abrahamson will prioritise this film, meaning that his adaptation of Laird Hunt’s Civil War novel Neverhome, and his collaboration with Frank star Domhnall Glesson on an adaptation of Sarah Waters’ gothic novel The Little Stranger, are put on the back-burner.

Camilla Young brokered the deal for Curtis Brown with Element Pictures’s Mark Byrne. Andrew Lowe will produce for Element with Rosanne Flynn and Emma Norton.