From Real Life To Reel Life: Hands Of Stone

A story of ultimate redemption.

Robert de Niro steps back into the boxing ring again, this time as celebrated trainer Ray Arcel in Hands of Stone, the true story of how the legendary Roberto Duran, who is considered a national treasure in Panama,  and Arcel, his celebrated trainer, changed each other’s lives.


Robert de NIro, who takes on the role of Ray Arcel, first met Arcel and Duran many decades before when Duran was the world champ and De Niro was preparing for Raging Bull.

Ray Arcel made a big impression on Mr. De Niro because “he spoke like a Harvard Professor, not like a typical boxing trainer”. He also liked Duran a lot and they played a softball game together, USA vs Panama, in Central Park.


Writer/Director/Producer Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Jonathan Jakubowicz jumped to international recognition after he wrote, directed and produced “Secuestro Express” (2005), the frightening story of one young couple’s ordeal as they career through the underbelly of Caracas in the hands of three thugs who’ve made them their latest payday. The thriller became Venezuela’s highest-grossing film, eclipsing such movies as “Titanic” and “The Passion of the Christ.” In 2015, Jakubowicz completed filming the epic movie about legendary boxer Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran starring Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Ana de Armas, Ellen Barkin, Ruben Blades, John Turturro and Usher. Hands of Stone was written, directed and produced by Jakubowicz through his Company Epicentral Studios, which he owns with his wife and Producing Partner Claudine Jakubowicz. In 2010 he co-directed the HBO International Show “Profugos”, the biggest action driven original series ever made in Latin America. The series premiered in September 2011 in the US and all Spanish Speaking territories across the world, and was nominated to the Monte Carlos TV Festival as Best Series of the Year. Distance (2002/I) is a poignant short film about a woman’s mysterious past unfolding during an unexpected trip to Holland in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Distance screened at the World Film Festival of Montreal, New York Independent Film Festival and Palm Springs Short Film Festival, amongst others. In addition, Jakubowicz wrote and directed “Ships of Hope”, a documentary recounting the journey of refugee Jews on a ship fleeing the European Nazi Regime to Venezuela. It screened at the Director’s Guild of America’s Angelus Awards, and the Havana Film Festival. The documentary went on to win Best Documentary at the Premios a la Calidad de Cenac (Venezulelan Oscars).

De Niro came on board early in the process and worked closely with writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz on the screenplay.  They first met because De Niro liked Secuestro Express, Jakubowicz’s first film. He also liked the screenplay for Hands of Stone but he wasn’t sure he wanted to do it because “he couldn’t hear Ray Arcel’s voice.

Jakubowicz and De Niro then met multiple times with Stephanie Arcel, the widow of Ray Arcel, and were able to capture the essence and the voice of the legendary character.

De Niro stars as legendary trainer Ray Arcel, a Jew from Harlem who became the first boxing trainer to be elected into the Boxing Hall of Fame. He trained more than 2,000 fighters in his 70 year career, and none of them were ever seriously hurt. The movie captures his comeback after a retirement forced by the Mafia. Arcel agrees to train Duran for free, risking his own life, and beginning a journey that will change him forever.

Golden Globe Best Actor Nominee Edgar Ramirez stars as Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran. The son of an American Marine who has an affair with a local girl while occupying Panama, Duran grows up with the will to avenge his nation’s pride. He fights the top American boxers in the most important arenas in North America. Next to him, Ray Arcel, an American, gives intelligence and strength to his rage, teaching him technique and strategy , ultimately leading Duran from rise and fall to redemption.

The entire Duran family acts in the film.

Robin Duran (Roberto Duran’s son), who is also an Executive Producer of the film, plays his uncle Pototo. The real Felicidad Duran plays the nurse who delivers Felicidad’s babies in the ER (Felicidad is played by Ana de Armas).

David Arosemena, the boy who plays young Roberto Duran, was cast through the Nuevas Generaciones Foundation from El Chorillo, which helps get kids off the streets. David’s mother had abandoned him 5 years prior and his dad is a construction worker who works 12 hours on night shifts while supporting 6 kids. The day he was chosen, it was discovered that not only does he live on the same street in El Chorrilo that Roberto Duran lived on, but he was also born on the same day, June 16. His mother and father reunited after he started working on the film and are trying to become a family again.

The filmmakers have helped in creating a better lifestyle for David and his family. Prior to him being cast, his family didn’t have any furniture and their entire family of 6 had no choice but to sleep on the floor.

The filmmakers worked to furnish his whole apartment and enrol him in school as well as help him get a scholarship to continue to provide opportunities for education in the future. He will continue to get a check for his payment for the film every month until he is 18 years old.

The film takes place from 1964 to 1983, and was shot in Panama City and New York over a period of 65 days.  With a 300 person crew and 15,000 extras, HANDS OF STONE is not only the biggest film ever created in Panama but also the Latino Movie with the widest US release in history.  This all became possible when the film was approved in the national congress of Panama as a National Interest Project. A special fund was then created to support the film and the entire nation helped in making it possible to shoot.  Every department

All of the boxing fights in the film were choreographed to be identical reenactments of the originals. Sugar Ray Leonard was among the people who trained Usher for the role while Roberto Duran and two of his son’s helped in training Edgar Ramirez


Robert de Niro and writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz

Roberto Duran

Roberto Duran was born on June 16, 1951 in El Chorillo. His father, an American Marine had had an affair with a local Panamanian woman during the United States occupation of Panama, but was relocated while Duran was still very young and left his family behind in the slums of Panama.

Duran learned to box at a young age at the Neco de La Guardia Gym, turning pro when he was just 16 years old. Quickly becoming one of the most well known and successful boxers in the ring, Duran boasted a record of 72-1 prior to his first face off against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980.

His penchant for hard hits and early knock outs earned him the nickname “Manos de Piedra” or “Hands of Stone”.  He was introduced to famed boxing trainer Ray Arcel in the early 1970s by then manager, wealthy landowner Carlos Aleta.

With Arcel’s rigorous training schedule and unique methods, Roberto Duran won his first world title against then Lightweight Champion Ken Buchanan.

This fight earned 21 year-old Duran’s 30th straight win, 19 of which were knock outs. Roberto Duran is still today widely considered the best lightweight of all times.  On June 20, 1980, in a 15 round match, Roberto Duran beat, then undefeated, and 21 favorite, Sugar Ray Leonard for the WBC Welterweight Champion in the “Brawl in Montreal”.

A few months later, on November 25th of the same year, Duran and Leonard revisited their notorious rivalry in a rematch that would become one of the most infamous fights in boxing history. Midway into the fight, Duran walked away. Uttering the phrase “no más” (no more). Roberto Duran turned his back on his opponent and gave up, ultimately surrendering his title in a shocking decision that would appear to be the culmination of Duran’s triumphant career.

Despite this rare and almost unprecedented occurrence, Duran was not ready to give up. According to him, he was a fighter and he had been fighting all his life, but he was not ready for a forfeit to be his legacy. In 1983 at Madison Square Garden, on his 32nd birthday, Roberto Duran defeated 24-year-old crowd favorite, Davey Moore, in an eighth round knock out, earning him the title of WBA junior middleweight champion and perhaps more notably, redemption.

Considered to be one of the top ten best boxers of all time, Roberto Duran was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007.  He continued boxing until the age of 50 when he officially retired with a record of 119 fights, 103 wins, and 69 knockouts. He lives in Panama with his wife of over 40 years Felicidad Duran with whom he has nine children with.