If you ever took for granted the relationship Will Smith had with Muhammad Ali after Smith portrayed the boxing icon on film, you no longer will. Smith was announced as one of the pallbearers for Ali’s funeral scheduled for this Friday.
As word of Ali’s passing spread over the weekend, Smith was one of many stars to pay their respects. “You shook up the World! My Mentor & My Friend,” Smith posted on his Facebook page. “You changed my Life. Rest in Peace.”
Ali has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 67%, and Smith’s portrayal of Ali has widely been praised over the years since hitting theaters in 2001. Smith was nominated for an Oscar for his performance, and Ali said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that Smith scared him with his performance.
“But when we think about the legacy of Muhammad Ali, what he did in the ring is not what we think about,” said Smith. “For nearly two years, I worked to transform myself into the man who changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and shook up the world. That’s really what makes my job so beautiful as an actor,” Smith continued. “For four or five months at a time, I get to wear people’s lives, so I got to wear Muhammad Ali’s greatness. I got to study and feel and embody the soul of the man. 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.”
Smith is one of eight pallbearers for the former heavyweight champ. Among five family members of Ali’s, Smith will be joined by a pair of former heavyweight champions, Lennox Lewis and Jerry Ellis. Ellis was a former sparring partner of Ali’s.