‘Room’ Director Lenny Abrahamson Will Adapt Biography of Bisexual Boxer Emile Griffith

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Lenny Abrahamson and Ed Guiney, the director and producer of film festival darling Room, have purchased the rights to A Man’s World, the biography of 1960’s boxer Emile Griffith by Donald McRae.

Griffith, a championship boxer in late 1950s and early ’60s, who, due to social pressures, led something of a double life, inhabiting, as Abrahamson described to Deadline, “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.” In 1962, Griffith beat his rival, Benny Paret, into a coma during a nationally televised match after Paret grabbed his butt and used a homophobic slur against him during the pre-match weigh-in. Paret died 10 days later, prompting a scandal. Abrahamson continued to elaborate on his interest in the project:

You look at how closely his two worlds intersected. 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.

Despite having other projects in development, Abrahamson said he plans to find a co-writer for the adaptation as soon as possible. For now, Abrhamson and Guiney’s current film, Room, enters limited release today, and will hit theaters nationwide November 26.