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How we came to film Muhammad Ali's last fight
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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I made a film with my brother, just the two of us made this film, much later on when Muhammad Ali was about to fight his last fight; the one with Larry Holmes. And that came to us in an odd way. A young black kid, his early 20s at most, living in Chicago, got a job selling life insurance. And, being black and adventurous and ambitious, he thought one day, well, maybe I can sell Muhammad Ali a bunch of life insurance. So he knocks on Muhammad Ali's door; Muhammad Ali answers the door; and he ends up selling him a raft of life insurance. But he also happened to know around that time that Muhammad Ali was about to have his next big fight. And this kid, who knew nothing about film, thought- oh well, I've got to get his permission to make a documentary film. He does that and then he finds somebody to help him out but it turns out that the guy wasn't really doing that good a job. And he heard about the work of my brother and myself. And he's the one that brought us to Muhammad Ali. And that's how we- that's how we got to make that film. I had already known Muhammad Ali because when he was first fighting in Florida the BBC sent me there to do some filming of him. Not a great deal of filming but enough so that you really got a feeling of him practicing, preparing for the fight. Many years went by, and then many more years went by after the film in Africa, but, you know, here's a man that must have met so many people- how he could possibly remember me I don't know, but one day I was crossing the street on Broadway in New York and I heard somebody shouting- hey Al, and I looked, and there was this guy rolling down the window in this cab, sticking his head out, and shouting for me; it was Muhammad Ali. So, we remained friends.

Albert Maysles (1926-2015) known for his important documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, pioneered the documentary style known as Direct Cinema. He helped create techniques still widely used in modern documentary production, as well as many of the techniques used in reality TV.

Listeners: Rebekah Maysles Sara Maysles Tamara Tracz

Rebekah Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is an artist living between New York and Philadelphia. She has her own line of clothing, Blackberryrose, and co-runs the store Sodafine in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York, a vintage and handmade store that sells clothing, books and other products made by artists.

Sara Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is currently doing her BA in East Asian Studies at Columbia University, and working as an Archivist of the photographs and photographic material at Maysles Films Inc., Albert‚s film production company. She spent ten months out of two years working with Tibetan refugees at a center in Nepal, and continues to travel back and forth between America and Asia.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: Chicago, Florida, BBC, Africa, Broadway, New York, Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes

Duration: 2 minutes, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 29 September 2010