A SCOTTISH production company is releasing a “high-profile” documentary on Muhammad Ali for US audiences – focusing on a part of the boxing legend’s career seen less on screen.

Cassius X: Becoming Ali is being produced by Two Rivers Media.

It will also explore the boxer’s interactions with pivotal cultural figures such as Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X.

Muta’Ali, director of the feature, said: “I have intimate knowledge of what it’s like being a black Muslim in America and this portion of Ali’s life – filled with triumph, challenges, love, and courage – is nothing short of inspiring.

“Cassius X: Becoming Ali is my interpretation of Ali’s spiritual and intellectual transformation, rooted in the conversations I’ve had on camera with people who knew him at the time.”

The documentary will include interviews with R&B singer and Ali’s former girlfriend Dee Dee Sharp, broadcaster Jim Lampley and Malcolm X’s daughter Attallah Shabazz.

Ali’s name is synonymous with The Rumble in the Jungle, The Thrilla in Manilla and The Fight of the Century, but this period of his life is the birth of his legacy.

Before he entered the Nation of Islam, he was just Cassius Clay – a young man with a big mouth trying to find his way in the one of the world’s most dangerous professions.

Dan Wolf, executive producer of the Smithsonian Channel, said: “We’re proud to have this film under our banner. This is a taut, riveting story of personal choice and transformation – under the white-hot lights of fame and the backdrop of cultural upheaval.

“Cassius X: Becoming Ali boils it all down to the compelling coming-of-age moments of a young man who just turned 18.”

The film follows the period of Ali’s life from where he embarks on a journey from becoming a professional, to realising his dream as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Based on the book by Sunday National columnist Stuart Cosgrove, Ali’s early battles inside and outside the ring are investigated. From Sonny Liston to Islamophobia, the young Ali took on all comers on his way to becoming boxing’s youngest heavyweight champion.

Mick McAvoy, head of factual for Two Rivers Media, said: “With access to incredible archive and interviews with those who witnessed these events first-hand, this film will reveal the birth of one of the world’s first global superstars, giving a fuller context to the social landscape that made Muhammad Ali one of the 20th century’s greatest icons, with a legacy no less powerful half a century on.”

The Smithsonian Channel is in possession of a major archive of footage that is not in the public domain.

McAvoy said this ensures the film doesn’t become “just another Ali film”.

Director Muta’Ali is no stranger to challenges, with his most recent effort concerning the tragedy of Yusuf Hawkins, a young black teenager from New York whose murder inspired protests across the United States.

His other films include Hear her Voice and Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee.

This origin story aims to expose the xenophobic attitudes of the last century while capturing the triumph of a man who changed the world.

The filmmakers are hoping to bring a new light to the Ali story and give fresh insight into Cassius Clay the man by avoiding the George Foreman and Joe Frazier mega fights, as well as his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War.

This is the first time Two Rivers is partnering with the Smithsonian Channel.

The Scottish firm was launched in January 2019, coinciding with Channel 4’ s commitment to spend 50% of its programme budget outside London by 2023 and its plans for a Creative Cluster in Glasgow.

It was also supported by Screen Scotland, funded by the Scottish Government.

Mark Thomas of Screen Scotland added: “For their second feature documentary, Two Rivers have put together an exciting team of award-winning director Muta’Ali and the Smithsonian Channel for Cassius X: Becoming Ali, bringing Stuart Cosgrove’s book on a pivotal time in the iconic boxer Muhammad Ali’s life to the big screen.

“The film marks another example of a high-profile, international feature.”

The film is set to air at some point in 2022 in the UK and US through two 60-minute episodes.

A feature film based around Ali’s life starring Will Smith, Jon Voight and Jamie Foxx was released in 2001 with Smith and Voight receiving Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.