Will Smith on Saturday posted a touching tribute on Facebook to Muhammad Ali following his recent passing on Friday. Ali, who battled Parkinson’s disease for 32 years, was 74.
“You shook up the World! My Mentor & My Friend. You changed my Life. Rest in Peace,” the actor wrote .
Smith received an Oscar nomination for portraying the boxing champion in Michael Mann’s Ali (2001). Back in 2001, Smith and Ali sat down with Oprah Winfrey on her talk show to discuss the film. When Winfrey asked Ali about Smith’s portrayal of him, Ali replied, “He scared me.”
The actor said channeling the heavyweight champ was “the greatest of all times. The champ looked at me and gave me the nod that I did a good job. I worked as hard as I could possibly have worked.”
Last year, Smith presented the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award to Jack Nicklaus at Sports Illustrated‘s annual Sportsperson of the Year dinner, where he praised The Champ.
“But when we think about the legacy of Muhammad Ali, what he did in the ring is not what we think about,” said Smith. “For nearly two years, I worked to transform myself into the man who changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and shook up the world. That’s really what makes my job so beautiful as an actor. For four or five months at a time, I get to wear people’s lives, so I got to wear Muhammad Ali’s greatness. I got to study and feel and embody the soul of the man. From the foundations of Islam and the strength of his Muslim faith and his life to the beautiful wake that he always leaves in his magnificent path.”