Today, SHOWTIME announced PARIAH: THE LIVES AND DEATHS OF SONNY LISTON, a SHOWTIME Sports documentary film, premiering on Friday, November 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Written and directed by Simon George and told through original conversations with luminaries, historians and some of Liston’s closest friends and family, PARIAH chronicles the rise and precipitous fall of one of the most vilified and misunderstood sports champions of all time.
Overcoming the seemingly insurmountable odds that life threw his way, Liston became the heavyweight champion of the world when he knocked out Floyd Patterson in 1962. Just eight years later, his wife would find Liston dead in their Las Vegas home from a supposed heroin overdose. Suspicion as to the cause of death pervaded among those that knew him. PARIAH explores the many theories behind his untimely demise. The film features exclusive conversations with Mike Tyson, boxing historians Nigel Collins, Jerry Izenberg, Bob Lipsyte, Don Majeski and Shaun Assael, upon whose investigative work PARIAH is based.
“Sonny Liston’s story is filled with tragedy and triumph, and goes far beyond boxing,” said Stephen Espinoza, President, Sports and Event Programming for Showtime Networks Inc. “PARIAH provides a raw examination of the public’s perception of Liston versus his reality. The film is powerful and compelling, and will reveal an authentic, inside perspective about Liston’s life that has never been told before.”
Liston’s boxing career took him to places he’d never imagined. From fighting for the most prestigious honor in sports to his association with notorious mobsters in America’s violent underbelly, Liston was a man who led many lives. Instead of being celebrated with the reverence reserved for the heavyweight champion of the world, Liston became a pariah, denigrated by white society as a violent criminal and rejected by the civil rights movement because he wasn’t the poster boy they needed. This realization caused Liston to spiral out of control. Expedited by back-to-back losses to Muhammad Ali, including perhaps the most controversial knockout of all time, Liston’s dramatic fall from grace would end tragically.
“To me, Sonny Liston was one of the greatest, yet most misunderstood and vilified sports figures of all time,” said director Simon George. “He was born into a time of great turmoil and upheaval in America, and became the scapegoat for a nation in flux. He was a man who aimed for the stars but instead got torn apart by the factions warring for their places in post-war America. His story is one of race, prejudice and injustice. It is a film about how America chooses its heroes and how it never lets anyone forget their past.”
PARIAH: THE LIVES AND DEATHS OF SONNY LISTON is executive produced by Louise Norman, Adam Hawkins and Dimitri Doganis.
Developed from Shaun Assael’s investigative book The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights, PARIAH is the latest in a series of unscripted programming from SHOWTIME Sports Documentary Films that spotlights culturally relevant subject matter in the world of sports. Additional titles in the lineup include the 2017 Sports Emmy® Award-winning DISGRACED, the multi-part series SHUT UP AND DRIBBLE, 100%: JULIAN EDELMAN and QUIET STORM: THE RON ARTEST STORY.