Rachel Morrison's Boxing Drama Flint Strong Adds Brian Tyree Henry, Resumes Filming After A Two-Year Gap

Two years ago, cinematographer Rachel Morrison began shooting her directorial debut, "Flint Strong" — a boxing drama starring Ryan Destiny, Oluniké Adeliye, and Ice Cube — for Universal Pictures. Two days into principal photography, the pandemic forced the project to shut down. While Universal would eventually resume production on most of its greenlit films, they chose not to continue with "Flint Strong."

The film appeared to be an unfortunate casualty of an unforeseen crisis, but producers Michael De Luca and Elisha Holmes, who left Universal for MGM, kept the faith. And though De Luca is currently on his way out at MGM, he made sure Morrison's film was a go before he left the studio. The two-year delay forced Ice Cube to drop out, but according to The Hollywood Reporter, they just landed a pretty spiffy replacement in Brian Tyree Henry.

Getting up off the canvas

Based on Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper's documentary "T-Rex: Her Fight For Gold," "Flint Strong" centers on Claressa "T-Rex" Shields (Destiny), who overcame a whole mess of obstacles on the way to winning the first Olympic gold medal for women's middleweight boxing. Henry has been cast as Jason Crutchfield, Shields' trainer who made ends meet as a cable installer. Adeliye will play Shields' mother. Judy Greer had been cast in a "key role" when the film was set up at Universal; it is unclear whether she is still attached.

It is, however, very clear that "Flint Strong" is lousy with potential. The involvement of Morrison, one of the best directors of photography on the planet, is exciting enough. Her brilliant work on Dee Rees' "Mudbound" earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, and you no doubt dug her lensing on Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther." Add in Barry Jenkins (the maestro behind "Moonlight" and "If Beale Street Could Talk") as screenwriter and producer, and you've got a big ol' must-see (and an awards-season thoroughbred).

Jenkins is clearly elated to be involved. In a statement quoted by THR, he says, "Given the difficulties we've faced as a global community over the past two years, I salute Rachel for continuing the journey of bringing this wonderful story from Flint, Michigan to the big screen. Like our protagonist, Rachel Morrison is made of tough stuff, and we all look forward to supporting her and this tremendous cast in getting this film into the can and into a theater near you."

"Flint Strong" will resume production next week. We'll probably have to wait until 2023 for the finished product, but two years after that frustrating false start, I've a feeling the wait will be well worth it.