When Bob Dylan sang about a boxer ”the authorities came to blame/For somethin’ that he never done,” he helped turn 1960s middleweight boxing champ Rubin ”Hurricane” Carter into a folk hero. But it was a dedicated group of Canadians and a 15-year-old Brooklyn activist named Lesra (short for Lazarus) Martin who rallied for the fighter’s 1985 release from prison. Amid the swirl of controversy, Carter was exonerated from charges of a triple murder.
”No matter what you think of the facts,” says Washington, ”you can’t deny the power of the story.” The story of Washington’s preparation for the role is pretty powerful too. He learned to throw 80 punches a minute and lost 44 pounds. ”He’ll probably never look this good again,” says Jewison (”Moonstruck”).
Filming on location in Rahway (now East Jersey) State Prison was old news for Washington, who’d shot there for ”Malcolm X” and ”He Got Game,” but Shannon — who plays Carter’s aptly named champion — and Jewison were big-house newcomers. ”After they take every pen and comb away from you, they actually lock you in the building,” says the director. ”My immediate reaction was, ‘This is it, they’re gonna get the old director first.”’ BUZZ FACTOR: 5
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