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CINDERELLA MAN (article first published : 2005-09-2)

Academy Award winning actor Russell Crowe and Academy Award winning director Ron Howard have combined their remarkable talents to bring the true story of boxer James J. Braddock to an international cinema audience.

Like so many inspirational stories, Cinderella Man is set against a time of hardship and despair. As the Great Depression exacted its toll on the will and determination of the American people, hope came in the form of an unlikely sporting hero – James Braddock – a man who endured the same privations of the common folk but managed to rise above their misery to inspire and comfort those who believed in him.

The impoverished ex-prize-fighter had lost everything but his family by the early thirties. His glory days were in the past, his boxing career was over, and he was unable to feed his family and pay the bills. In an act of both bravery and despair, he returned to the ring, against the odds and the advice of those who told him he could never regain all that he had lost.

However, fuelled by equal measures of determination and desperation, Braddock was unstoppable. Despite being outmatched and outclassed and lacking the necessary training, he won bout after bout. He became the embodiment of the dreams of the ordinary man, and by the time he dared to challenge the heavyweight champion of the world, Max Baer, he had transformed into a true folk hero.

Academy Award winning actor Russell Crowe was fascinated by the true story of Jim Braddock after he was given a draft copy of the script by writer Cliff Hollingsworth. When he worked with director Ron Howard on A Beautiful Mind, he showed Howard the script, and the two resolved to make Cinderella Man a forthcoming project.

Together with producers Brian Grazer, Penny Marshall and Todd Hallowell, Howard, assembled an extraordinarily gifted team to bring this true story to the screen. In fact there are so many awards and nominations held by the various members of the cast and crew that working on the film at times resembled a glittering international award ceremony!

Playing the part of Braddock’s wife is Renee Zellweger, fresh from her triumph in Cold Mountain, while Paul Giamatti, basking in the glow of the acclaim for Sideways, portrays Braddock’s manager, Joe Gould. Craig Bierko, equally at home on Broadway or facing the camera, is Max Baer, and Bruce McGill brings the fabled boxing promoter of the thirties, Jimmy Johnston, to life.

Cinematographer Salvatore Totino, together with designers Wynn Thomas and Daniel Orlandi, scrupulously recreates the look and “feel” of Depression-era America. The essential boxing bouts were carefully created by Nick Powell and Steve Lucescu, supervised by the legendary boxing trainer, Angelo Dundee.

It was that brilliant chronicler of the guys and dolls of New York’s Time Square, Damon Runyon, who gave Jim Braddock the title Cinderella Man in honour of his remarkable surmounting of the odds, and the extraordinary fairy-tale appeal of this true story.

Cinderella Man will be released countrywide in South Africa by Ster-Kinekor on September 23.




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