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It’s a project that Johnny Tapia was heavily involved in — and nearly three months after his death, it’s moving forward.
The feature film “Johnny” was announced Wednesday by Albuquerque native filmmaker Eddie Alcazar, who will be directing the film, and Tapia’s widow, Teresa.
They also announced the actor — Shiloh Fernandez — who snagged the role of Tapia.
“I think it’s going to be a great honor to Johnny, and I’m happy to see the movie on the big screen,” Teresa Tapia said. “Johnny was aware of the movie, but we weren’t allowed to talk about it until we had our lead actor.”
With the lead actor in place, Alcazar said casting will continue for the rest of the roles and pre-production has begun.
Fernandez has been a lead in a variety of films such as “Red Riding Hood,” “Deep Powder” and most recently the remake of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead.”
Filming of “Johnny,” which will focus on Tapia’s life during his early years as a fighter, is slated to begin in February. It will be filmed entirely in Albuquerque.
The film had been in development for months before his death on May 27.
The screenplay was written by Alcazar and Bettina Gilois, who wrote Tapia’s autobiography, “Mi Vida Loca: The Crazy Life of Johnny Tapia,” and is being produced by Anonymous Content.
Fernandez is currently working with one of Tapia’s former trainers in Los Angeles to get in fighting shape, Alcazar said.
“When Shiloh came in, we had our doubts if he could play Johnny,” said Teresa Tapia. “But as we spent more time with him, he showed us that he wanted this role and we saw something special in him. He has the same qualities that Johnny had, and I think he has the passion to do the role justice.”
Meanwhile, the documentary “Tapia” that Alcazar has been working on is in its final stages and is expected to be released before the end of this year.
“Johnny opened up his huge heart to me greater than I could ever imagine,” Alcazar said. “Every day we spent together he was so excited to be telling his story, and helping others. He always told me how he would be here to see the completed film, and that some day we would all watch it together, laughing and crying. And just as quickly as he entered my life, a year later he was gone.”
— This article appeared on page A2 of the Albuquerque Journal