By C. Young
Updated October 24, 2001 11:00 AM

Will Smith took time out from filming “Men in Black 2” with Tommy Lee Jones to do an interview for the December issue of Playboy. Much of it concerned the forthcoming “Ali,” a biopic that documents Muhammad Ali’s many battles in and out of the ring, and it sounds like the champ’s outrageous self-confidence rubbed off on the actor, who stated his desire to have dibs over Tom Cruise on the next great screenplay. If “Ali” even partially lives up to Smith’s claims, it will indeed be, like Ali, the greatest. “It has the most incredible boxing footage ever committed to film,” said Smith, who also starred in such diverse movies as “Independence Day” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance.” “You will never see an actor making films on the level I am, allowing heavyweight boxers to punch him in the face as much as I did. This is the film of the decade. Period.” One of the first rappers to go platinum before his career veered into acting, Smith was asked to rate Ali’s poems. “My favorite is the one he does for the Ali-Frazier fight. I actually do it in the film. ‘Ali comes up and meets Frazier, but Frazier starts to retreat/and if Joe goes back any farther/he’ll wind up in a ringside seat.’ I love that. His poems were perfect in the moment. He was a boxer, not a poet, but his poetry was so charged. And it was fun that someone could have such a cavalier attitude about fighting a killer.”