A biopic on the life of tennis great Arthur Ashe is in the works from Warner Music Group and Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment that will be penned by Kevin Willmott, an Oscar winner for “BlacKkKlansman” and the writer of Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” it was announced Tuesday.
Amritraj will produce for Hyde Park Entertainment along with Charles Cohen for Warner Music Group.
The film has the full support of the Ashe estate, and Ashe’s wife Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe is executive producing along with Hyde Park’s Priya Amritraj and Addison Mehr, as well as Alexandra Dell.
Ashe was an activist for civil rights and for AIDS awareness and is the only black man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. He died of AIDS-related pneumonia at age 49 in 1993 after retiring from tennis in 1980. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton.
The film will incorporate the music of Ashe’s life, including Aretha Franklin, Prince and Curtis Mayfield. Warner Music Group will help secure the rights to the soundtrack and provide creative guidance.
“Arthur’s legacy reaches far beyond his greatness as a tennis player,” Amritraj, a former former Wimbledon pro, said in a statement. “Always a gentleman; bold, graceful, and intellectual; while at the same time passionate in his fight against racial inequality and injustice, I am honored to bring Arthur’s story to the screen.”
Ashe’s rise as a tennis star and eventually to #1 in the world began on the public courts in Richmond, Virginia. In 1968 when Ashe wins the U.S. Open, he did so behind the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Ashe forged his role within the black revolution in America and additionally found his own unique voice as he struck a bold new path against apartheid in South Africa.
Willmott is represented by Gersh and Erik Hyman at Paul Hastings LLP.