Chris Arreola, Claressa Shields to star in movie
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a natural fit.
The woman who directed such female anthems as “Sex and the City” and “Desperately Seeking Susan” tackling a movie about a boxing gym, a promoter, a murder and an affair. But director Susan Seidelman felt an immediate kinship with the female lead after reading the screenplay and decided to add her touch to the rising index of recent boxing films.
“Punch Me” is a film based on the real-life, unsolved murder of Los Angeles promoter/gym owner Howie Steindler and his daughter’s attempt to carry on his legacy. The film is set to go into production in the spring and has a supporting cast that includes heavyweight title contender Chris Arreola playing a character named “Animal,” as well as the two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields playing the role of “Panther.”
The film will deconstruct the death of Steindler, the flamboyant owner of the Main Street Gym, who was found dead in the back seat of his Cadillac in 1977 near an exit ramp of the Ventura Freeway.
The Main Street Gym was a boxing hotbed, a place where Jack Johnson once hung out after he retired, and Steindler, a former prop man for RKO Studios, was its bandleader. Feisty and combative, his persona was so distinct that actor Burgess Meredith based his “Mickey” character in the Rocky films on him. Steindler was managing WBC featherweight champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez at the time of his death. His daughter Carol grabbed the baton and ran the gym for another 14 years.
In the aftermath of the murder, Carol discovers, according to a press release for the film, that her husband has been cheating on her with her sister. She vows to raise her son, run the gym and track down her father’s killer. The toughness that Carol shows in the midst of such hardships is what drew Seidelman to the project.
“It’s not that I was such a big boxing fan,” Seidelman said in a phone interview. “I really didn’t know that much about boxing but I really liked the idea. I’ve been making films for 25, 30 years and I like strong female protagonists. To me, what was so interesting was the kind of fish out of water aspect to the story. The idea that this woman, who had been a school teacher and lived in the (San Fernando) Valley suddenly after her father is murdered she decides to carry on her father’s legacy.”
Seidelman says the film “sticks to the facts” of what really happened while also taking some creative licensing so it’s not just a recreation of events. The story was pushed by talent agent/event promoter Don Franken, who is also the lead producer on the film, and the script was written by Bill Kucera. Stephen Dorf is set to play Carol’s ex-husband, Jerry; Elisabeth Moss plays Carol.