Playing The Greatest

By IGOR GURYASHKIN
Staff Writer

Eddie Goines.

Eddie Goines.

When actor Eddie Goines heard that HBO was making a documentary on Muhammad Ali, he knew there might be a chance for him to portray his sporting idol. He started practicing the accent, the moves and the iconic mannerisms of one the 20th century’s most alluring sporting stars. But the role did not materialize, and what started out as the Floridian simply trying to prepare for a role he did not have yet, turned into the short film “Ali Speaks,” directed by award-winning director Foley and starring Goines as the Louisville Lip or as he and countless others see him – “The Greatest.”

“The challenge in making something on Muhammad Ali was trying to bring him to life in a way that has not been done before,” explains Goines, who in portraying the former heavyweight champion, placed Ali in the modern era, but still in his physical prime of the 1960s. Press conferences with modern reporters, jibes, quips and couplets with modern twists. Ali no longer floating like a butterfly or stinging like a bee, but instead arriving quicker than a text message can be sent. “Ali is such a legendary figure that you have to find a new way in presenting him, you try to put him into a modern context.” The six minute film was completed and released last year and has been screened at a number of festivals. But the film where Goines gets to play Ali has numerous parallels. Before acting, he was a football star and with a set of his own trials and tribulations Goines is his own intriguing enigma.

Born in Jackson, Tenn., but moved to Lakeland, Fl., at an early age – a hot-bed of elite high school football – a place where he found the main outlet for his athletic dreams. Things seemed simple. Despite being overlooked in his first year, he soon found himself to be a star on a team led by a legendary coach. Things came easily. Goines racked up honors at the same rate as he notched yards. Voted All-Area, All-State and making his school’s All-Decade Team, a stellar beginning had been capped off with a scholarship offer to play at North Carolina State.

At North Carolina State, Goines again faced an uphill battle. Just as in his high school days, his war was with the depth chart. But again he found a way to succeed. He was voted three times First All-ACC and was an All-American. But then tragedy struck – his knee.

“I tore my knee. I had reconstructive surgery on my knee. In total I had six major knee surgeries in three years.”

Goines’ talent led the Seattle Seahawks to pick him in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL Draft, despite his injury – a compliment to his talents with pressure to come back stronger. But it wasn’t to be. He never hit the big stage and new plans had to be made.

“I had to think of a life outside of football,” explains Goines. “When I finished playing football, acting was something that had been in the back of my head.” A move to New York beckoned and eventually he found himself in Los Angeles. The drive and ambition he had in his sporting life now started to fuel his life in acting.

“I think the fact that I did not get to accomplish what I wanted to in my football career certainly feeds my desire in acting,” explains Goines, whose parts have been in movies as diverse as American Gangster with his idols Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, to being the lead in the music video for Beyonce’s hit single “If I Were A Boy.” “Most people aren’t lucky enough to find a second passion in life and I have been.”

For now though, Goines is excited to spend three days in Louisville where his short film is being screened at the Muhammad Ali Center, and he’ll attend the inaugural Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards, taking place at the Galt House hotel, where winners include former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter as well as singers Michael Bolton and Christina Aguilera. But he has only one thing on his mind. The chance to sneak a glimpse of his idol perhaps share a few words.

“Oh, man,” exclaims an excited Goines. “It’s just going to be incredible to even be in the same room [as Ali]. I mean what do you say to him? What do you say to such an important person?  This was a man who put everything on the line, went after his dreams and he set the world on fire.”

As for when his time in Louisville comes to a close and Goines has to return to the sunshine of Los Angeles to keep acting, he remains excited about opportunities still in front of him and goals left to fulfill.

“I want to be a great entertainer. I want to see people happy, so whatever allows me to do that then that’s what i’m going to do. I just want to be on the biggest stage as an actor.”

Courtesy Photos