British actor David Oyelowo is preparing to play the role of boxer Sugar Ray Robinson in the film Sweet Thunder, which he will write and coproduce. Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King in Selma, told reporters how much the Robinson project had become an all-consuming priority for him. “Selma” took seven years. I think we’re almost ten with Sweet Thunder.”
Sugar Ray Robinson was one of the greatest boxers of all time. During the mid-twentieth century he won 174 out of 201 bouts and established a reputation for his flamboyant lifestyle outside the ring. Oyelowo said that Robinson’s “unbelievable footwork and incredible hand speed” propelled him to five victories over Jake LaMotta, the boxer played by Robert De Niro in Raging Bull.
Oyelowo’s next screen appearance will be with Saoirse Ronan and Ruth Wilson in See How They Run, a murder mystery set in the London of the 1950s. He is also playing the starring role in the Paramount series Bass Reeves, about the first Black deputy marshal in the old American West.
David Oyelowo was born in Oxford to Nigerian parents and grew up mostly in the UK, except for his several years in Nigeria between the ages of six and fourteen. As a youngster, he admired actors like Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington. His acting career began in 1999 with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and he became the first Black actor to portray a British king, Henry VI, in a RSC 2001 production. Later, in 2016, he played the title role in a production of Othello at the New York Theatre Workshop.
Oyelowo made his directorial debut in 2006 in a production of The White Devil. His film career began in 2012 with appearances in Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere and Lee Daniels’s The Paperboy. Two years later, Oyelowo formed his own production company, Yoruba Saxon Productions, which created several films in which he appeared, including Nightingale, Captive, Five Nights in Maine, and A United Kingdom.