By Simon Dang | The Playlist March 23, 2012 at 8:05AM
Late in 2010, seemingly on the back of David O. Russell's "The Fighter" and all its success, Gael Garcia Bernal and Al Pacino boarded "Hands Of Stone," a biopic of legendary Panamanian boxer Robert Duran which had Venezuelan helmer Jonathan Jakubowicz set to direct. One of Duran's most famous fights was of course against the undefeated Sugar Ray Leonard and, with the film seemingly growing legs recently, an unconventional choice has now been cast to play Leonard.
BBC report that R&B artist Usher will play Leonard, a boxing champion in five different weight divisions who only lost once in 38 fights before two straight defeats in the '90s in the twilight of his career. It'll be interesting to see hust how Usher, whose featured in a handful of films including 2010's "Killers," will manage both the acting and sporting side of things. "I'm in preparation for a very incredible role. If you guys see me running around London that's what it is. If you see me in the corners boxing. I'm doing that while working on this album," he noted.
Oddly, the report adds that Bernal will star opposite Robert De Niro in the pic. Has the latter replaced old pal Pacino as Duran's trainer Ray Arcel? Or, more likely, do the BBC/Usher have their wires crossed? Either way, El Universal also reports "True Blood" star Ryan Kwanten and action star Michelle Rodriguez are on board the film, with the former playing (according to IMDB) British boxer Ken Buchanan who faced off with Duran at Madison Square Garden in 1972.
Director Jakubowicz previously noted that the film will study "the rise, fall and redemption [of Duran]" and "will be a study of Latin soul, with its taste, humor and rage. The ['No Mas'] fight against Sugar Ray Leonard is considered the greatest enigma in boxing history. The film will solve this enigma. "
Puerto Rican rapper Tego Calderson, Oscar Jaenada and Duran's son Robin also co-star with lensing is set to begin imminently on location in Panama and New York.