by Ronnie Nathanielsz
Two-time Academy Award winning director Ang Lee visited the offices of Viva Entertainment last week to discuss the famous heavyweight title fight “Thrilla in Manila” which is regarded as the greatest heavyweight title fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier at the Araneta Coliseum on October 1, 1975.
Lee met with us since we served as the Liaison Officer of Ali and had stayed with him for weeks at the hotel then known as the Manila Hilton along United Nations Avenue and had also traveled to Kuala Lumpur to meet with Ali and trainer Angelo Dundee who were in Malaysia for the title fight against Britain’s Joe Bugner.
We also had traveled to Honolulu to accompany Ali and his girlfriend at that time, later to become his wife, Veronica Porsche.
The renowned 59 year old film director, producer and screenwriter attended the National Taiwan Cololege of Arts where he graduated in 1975 before he moved to the United States where he at the University of Illinois and New York University.
During his visit to Manila, Ang Lee visited the various sites that were part of the saga of the “Thrilla in Manila” such as the Folk Arts Theater, the Manila Hilton (now the Manila Pavilion), the Hyatt Hotel which is now the Midas Hotel, Malacanang where Ali and Frazier paid a courtesy call on President Marcos and the First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos and of course the venue of the event, the Araneta Coliseum which was, for the purpose of projection, referred to as the Philippine Coliseum.
A meticulous individual who obviously wishes to make certain of the facts if indeed he goes ahead with the project, the director double-checked with us on the venues, what went on in the different places and bits of information not known to many that would hopefully provide an insight into the drama that surrounded the fight itself.
We ourselves considered his visit to Viva to meet with us both an honor and a privilege and told him would be happy to help him in what could be a historic endeavor of telling the world the enthralling story of the “Thrilla in Manila.”
The moment Ang Lee stepped out of our office he was mobbed by fans from Viva Entertainment as he gamely posed for photos and autographed a stack of posters of the Life of PI which won for Ang Lee his second Academy Award for directing Life of Pi ,which was based on the acclaimed best-selling novel by Yann Martel. The honor marked the first time a director won the Best Director Oscar for helming a 3-D movie.
Life of Pi also garnered awards for cinematography, score and visual effects.
His first academy award winning film was BrokeBack Mountain, considered a small-budget, low profile independent film about gay ranch hands.
When he learned that a Viva Sports special on Pinoy Box Office titled “Remembering the Thrilla in Manila” which turned in remarkable ratings and was the No.1 show on cable in Mega Manila, he requested foe a copy.
The same evening that we met, Ang Lee flew to New Zealand but said he would return to further discuss his project which seems to excite and challenge him. Tags: boxing