Eminem Was Supposed to Play Jake Gyllenhaal's Role in 'Southpaw,' Kurt Sutter Confirms

While he's mostly been fielding questions about Sons of Anarchy while in quarantine, some fans have been asking creator Kurt Sutter about some of the other projects he's worked on in the past. On April 28, one such fan asked the former SoA showrunner about the 2015 boxing flick, Southpaw. Specifically, the fact that role of Billy was originally going to be played by rapper Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers.

"Yes. I wrote it for Marshall," Sutter replied. "His team came to me wanting to do a boxing movie. They were originally going to remake The Champ. I pitched the idea of telling the second half of his story, post-Eight Mile, though the analogy of boxing. They dug it."

As Sutter continued, he explained that he wrote the script, they liked it, and Dreamworks bought it, but the project ended up hitting a snag when Eminem himself decided to pull out of the project. "Marshall decided to focus on music and his sobriety. Which I totally understood and respected."

Sutter went on to write that after the project "was in limbo for about a year," before it was bought by The Weinstein Company for Jake Gyllenhaal as the new Billy. "We adjusted it creatively and Jake made it his own," Sutter added. Despite the change, he also admitted he was "very happy with his interpretation of Billy."

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It's not the first time that Sutter spoke about Eminem walking away from the role. Back in 2010, not long after Dreamworks bought the rights, he sat down with Deadline to explain that Southpaw was "a retelling of his struggles over the last five years of his life," but using boxing as an analogy. "I love that the title refers to Marshall being a lefty, which is to boxing what a white rapper is to hip hop; dangerous, unwanted and completely unorthodox, Sutter added. "It's a much harder road for a southpaw than a right-handed boxer."

Southpaw ended up hitting theaters in July of 2015, with director Antoine Fuqua at the helm. Though Gyllenhaal's performance was widely praised, the film scored mixed reviews and currently sits on the edge of the Tomatometer at 60 percent. Although Eminem didn't end up starring in the film, he did executive produce the soundtrack, which included his hit single, "Phenomenon."