In a Friday interview with San Diego radio station KIOZ, comedian and actor Paul Rodriguez said that Will Smith underwent a change while preparing for and shooting the 2001 Michael Mann biopic “Ali” — a change that transformed Smith into “an a-hole.”
Rodriguez said that before filming on the story about Muhammad Ali began, the two actors had a good relationship, one that included working together on the 1993 Whoopi Goldberg-Ted Danson film “Made in America.”
“I’ve known him for years. We got along great,” Rodriguez said.
That all changed during shooting of “Ali,” in Miami Beach, at the 5th Street Gym, an iconic location that has produced a long series of championship fighters. According to Rodriguez, the real Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, Ali’s doctor, came to the gym in Miami “drunk as a skunk” and started yelling in Smith’s dressing room, claiming that he wanted his role in the film to be expanded. He wanted Andy Garcia to play him,” Rodriguez said of Pacheco.
“It escalated to the point where he started using the n-word to Will — and all this is true — and the police had to come escort him off the set,” Rodriguez said.
Smith, no doubt alarmed by the incident, may have transferred his anger from Pacheco to the man playing him in the film.
Rodriguez said that “from then on, Will never looked at me the same.” The comedian said that, at that point, the relationship he had with the former star of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” soured completely.
“He was an a-hole … he started saying offensive stuff to me,” Rodriguez recalled of Smith at the time. “Maybe it was the steroids he was using to beef up.”
Rodriguez admitted that he had no conclusive proof that Smith was using steroids to assume Ali’s muscularity. “I don’t know that for a fact,” he told KIOZ. “But basically, how does a guy … go from a skinny dude to a massive guy?”
“I’ve not seen him since,” Rodriguez said. “I always had a great opinion of him. I have nothing but praises, but how he treated me … not cool…I’m no angel but I didn’t have it coming this time.”
Representatives for Smith and Mann did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment.