Hollywood star Will Smith says he is honoured to have played a part in Muhammad Ali’s grand funeral on Friday, insisting it was a “beautiful” celebration of the great sportsman’s life. The 47-year-old actor, who earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the legendary boxer in 2001 biopic Ali, served as one of the pallbearers at the memorial in Louisville, Kentucky, as the late icon’s body made one last trip through his native city as part of the funeral procession, reported Entertainment Tonight.
Smith says he was blown away by the thousands who lined the streets of Louisville to pay their last respects as Ali’s casket travelled to the KFC Yum! Center, where a public interfaith memorial service continued. “It’s absolutely beautiful. We did a two-hour procession through the state... the outpouring of love,” the star said of the funeral parade.
“I learned a really valuable lesson about how the moment of the end of a life illuminates how it was lived. And every day you have to focus and concentrate on making sure you’re living your life in a way that it illuminates the things you want illuminated, and the things that were illuminated today were his love, and his heart, and his unconditional appreciation for all people of every race and colour.”
“Every age was out there. It was beautiful... ‘Celebration’ is the right word,” Smith added. Prior to the procession, the actor reveals he had the chance to talk to boxers and fellow pallbearers Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis and swap stories about the late fighter many believe to be the Greatest of All Time.
Ali’s daughter Laila heaped praise on the actor for doing her father justice onscreen. “He appreciated the great job that Will Smith did playing him. My father had a big impact on his life. He did a tremendous job playing that role, and he will forever be associated with my father, because as an actor, that’s kind of a spiritual thing, playing Muhammad Ali - and being able to do it so well. Channel that energy that he needed to bring to that role,” Laila Ali said.
The boxing champion, who battled Parkinson’s disease for 32 years, died from septic shock in Phoenix, Arizona on June 3. He was 74.