But in the movie, the relationship between fact and fiction is complicated.
What actually happened at the hotel that night?
The four men really were friends and had gathered to celebrate Clay’s victory hours earlier over the heavily favored Sonny Liston
, a match depicted in the movie
. They also visited a diner
, where Malcolm X went behind the counter to snap a picture of Clay surrounded by a crowd
— a scene captured in a real-life photograph.
Much of the rest of the movie, which mostly takes place in Malcolm X’s hotel room, was invented.
Powers has said he had trouble getting reliable accounts of exactly what happened that night
, so he imagined the men’s conversations based on research
. In the film Clay
, the boisterous new champ
, is riding high after his win
. Brown and Cooke want to go party
. Malcolm X
, sober and anxious
, has a different agenda
The result is a night of passionate debate about religion, opportunity and their responsibilities as famous figures in fighting for equality for Black Americans. In the movie, the four men emerge from their combative night with a renewed commitment to the fight against racial injustice.
“For some reason the idea of the four of them together in a room really sparked my imagination
. My initial intention was to write a book about their friendship but the thing that stumped me was that I couldn’t get a lot of details about what they discussed in the room
,” Powers told Esquire in January
“It seems to me like perfect grist for the mill for a dramatic piece where these four titans are trapped in a room together, the idea being that the room becomes a ring with this four-way match.”
Did Clay really announce his conversion to Islam soon after?
sí. In the movie, Clay tells a group of reporters at the hotel after the fight that he’s changing his name to Cassius X, describing Cassius Clay as a “slave name.”
In real life
, the 22-year-old held a press conference the next day and talked about his win as an underdog
. Luego he announced his conversion to Nation Of Islam
“I go to a Black Muslim meeting and what do I see
? I see that there’s no smoking and no drinking and their women wear dresses down to the floor
. And then I come out on the street and you tell me I shouldn’t go in there
,” él dijo, according to The New York Times.
“Bien, there must be something in there if you don’t want me to go in there.
At that news conference, he also said he opposed integration — a controversial stance at the height of the fight for equality.
“I don’t have to be what you want me to be,” él dijo. “I’m free to be who I want. I want to be with my own kind.”
Six weeks later the Nation of Islam’s leader
, Elijah Muhammad
, Anunciado he was giving the boxer a Muslim name
, Muhammad Ali
Ali later parted ways with the Nation of Islam and embraced mainstream Islam. The three-time heavyweight champ, one of the most indelible figures of the 20th century, died five years ago at age 74.
What happened to the friendship between Clay and Malcolm X?
The movie shows the beginning of its end.
By early 1964 Malcolm X had grown disillusioned with Elijah Muhammad and wanted to form his own Muslim organization. In the movie he urges Clay to join him, but Clay becomes resentful, accusing Malcolm of using the boxer’s growing celebrity for his own ends.
Six weeks after that night in Miami
, Malcolm X announced his break with the Nation of Islam
. Clay chose to remain loyal to the group and turned his back on his mentor
, esencialmente ending their friendship.
By all historical accounts, the two men never met again.
En febrero 1965, arsonists firebombed Malcolm X’s Queens house with him and his family inside
, an episode portrayed in the movie
. A week later
, Malcolm X was assassinated during a New York City rally for Black nationalists.
Did his debate with Malcolm X inspire Sam Cooke to record ‘A Change is Gonna Come’?
No. In the movie, Malcolm X slams Cooke for not using his music in the fight for racial justice. Cooke responds by telling him about a song he’d written about civil rights.
The scene at the end of the movie where he sings it on Johnny Carson’s show actually happened three weeks before the night in Miami
. Cooke expected his TV performance of the song to make a splash
, but it was overshadowed two nights later by the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show
Released two weeks later
, “A Change Is Gonna Come
” became an anthem of the civil rights movement
. Fue played at the inauguration of Barack Obama
, the nation’s first Black president
, en 2009.
Did that night lead Jim Brown to retire from the NFL?
Unlikely. The movie makes it seem like Brown retired from football soon after that night to focus on his budding acting career. En verdad, he played two more full seasons. The Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship in December 1964 — the last pro title won by any Cleveland team until LeBron James’ Cavaliers did it in 2016.
En julio 1966, Brown retired from the NFL to focus on his movie career and has since earned dozens of film and TV credits. His sex scene with Racquel Welch in 1969’s
” challenged interracial taboos
En el momento.
The only one of the famous foursome still alive, Brown just turned 85.
Did they really eat ice cream?
Throughout the movie
, the friends pace around the room eating vanilla ice cream from a box
. Turns out
, that actually happened in real life
. los FBI files described Malcolm X as a man who
“neither smokes nor drinks
” — so dessert may have been his idea of a good time
“Little details of the night show up in various biographies
, one little fact that’s true is that all they had was vanilla ice cream
,” Powers said.