A new documentary on the life and career of tennis great Arthur Ashe called "Citizen Ashe" is in the works for CNN Films and HBO Max.
"Citizen Ashe" will be co-directed by Rex Miller ("A Chef's Life," "Althea") and Sam Pollard ("4 Little Girls") that will explore Ashe's legacy on the court breaking barriers for Black athletes as well as off the court as an activist for HIV awareness.
The film is being produced by which is produced by Beth Hubbard and Dogwoof CEO Anna Godas and will be presented by CNN Films and HBO Max, and it will debut in 2022.
Arthur Ashe, who would have turned 78 this month, is the only Black man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open and was once ranked No. 1 in the world. He retired from tennis in 1980 and died of AIDS-related complications in 1993. But his legacy on the court was arguably superseded by his contributions to educating others about HIV and AIDS, founding the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health and being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton after his death.
"Citizen Ashe" will feature contemporary interviews with Ashe’s widow, Jeanne Moutousammy-Ashe, his brother, Johnnie Ashe, as well as fellow tennis legends Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Donald Dell and Lenny Simpson, as well as activist Prof. Harry Edwards. The film will show his relationship with his early tennis mentor, explore the death of his mother at a young age, his technical form on the court, the cultural significance of his Grand Slam wins, and how he managed a quiet, stoic dignity in public, despite the racism he endured throughout his life and career.
“Our film is a first-person exploration of Arthur Ashe in his own words, describing his own origin story as a social activist. He created a unique blueprint for advancing civil rights for disenfranchised and oppressed people throughout the world, amid a tumultuous time of demonstrations and assassinations. 'Citizen Ashe' shows a true champion's defining moments,” Miller said in a statement.
“I was a teenager in the 1960s and remember the extraordinary achievements of Arthur Ashe on the tennis court. But I knew little of the obstacles and challenges he faced on and off the court in the white world of professional tennis. Working on this film has been an absolute eyeopener into the man, and the player, who faced all of his challenges with a level of dignity and integrity we should all try to measure up to,” Pollard said.
The executive producers on "Citizen Ashe" include William Ackman and Geralyn Dreyfous, co-founder of Impact Partners; Nina and David Fialkow; filmmaker Patty Quillin, Regina Scully, CEO and founder of Artemis Rising; Courtney Sexton,senior vice president of CNN Films; and filmmakers Tony Tabatznik, David Ulich, and Steven Ungerleider. Entelis, Legend, Jackson and Stiklorius are also executive producing.
This distribution deal for "Citizen Ashe" was negotiated by Anna Godas, on behalf of Dogwoof Ltd. and the filmmakers. Stacey Wolf, senior vice president of business affairs, and Kelly MacLanahan, assistant general counsel, both of CNN Worldwide, negotiated on behalf of CNN Films.