Bill Duke’s ‘Louis v Schmeling’ boxing feature prepares for a Crowdfunding KO

When fighters Joe Louis and Max Schmeling clashed for the second time on the eve of World War II, Joe was a black fighter in a racist society who reluctantly represented the hopes of America, while his opponent, who loathed Hitler, became a veritable German Superman entirely against his will.

The two men led lives of uncanny parallels and each recognized in the other a kindred spirit. As a result, Joe and Max would become lifelong friends until Louis’ death in 1981.

Last November, “Variety” announced “Louis vs Schmeling,” a feature film based on boxing’s two most historic battles. Actor-director Bill Duke (“Predator,” “Menace II Society,” “Sister Act 2”) is attached to lens the feature and also serves as one of the producers. The screenplay is completed, and has been written by Joel Eisenberg (author of “The Chronicles of Ara” novel series with Steve Hillard and executive producer of Ovation TV’s upcoming adaptation) and prolific Hollywood producer Gilbert Adler (“Valkyrie,” “Superman Returns,” “Constantine”).

Included in the collaboration as part of the team is the Kirmser Ponturo Group’s Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo who had attained the life rights to the Louis story from Joe Louis Barrow II – all of whom are Executive Producers on the project. Kirmser Ponturo have produced a series of three sports stories for the stage most notably “Lombardi.”

Together the team decided to develop the project amongst themselves in an effort to retain more control over the final product.

“It’s all about integrity,” says Eisenberg. “The idea is that if a studio and associated partners, for example, finance the project from A-Z, they would own the entire risk. By us crowdfunding the development of the property and further, possibly some pre-production financing, we would be able to mitigate some of that risk and bring a fully developed property to the funding party.”

Adler adds, “We are not crowdfunding the entire film. For a period picture, that would be cost- prohibitive and not realistic. We’re offering to bring fans of boxing and of movies into the project, and by so doing not only hope to raise these funds but also involve them in the process.”

Indeed, all of the usual incentives will be offered in exchange for donations. However, what turns this project away from typical movie crowdfunding efforts is that all of the filmmakers have stated they will make themselves available, throughout all phases of the film, for communication via phone, internet or in-person with their donors. This can be an invaluable exchange, particularly for independent filmmakers looking for elusive contacts in a notoriously difficult business.

Says Duke: “The story of these two men is not just about boxing. What these fighters went through in their lifetimes resonates so strongly in the present, especially considering today’s political and racial climate. We need to tell this story as accurately as we can, and as respectfully as we can.”

The team is crowdfunding their development efforts on Seed and Spark. See www.louisvsschmeling.com for further details. The campaign will run for 30 days beginning on Tuesday, March 23.