De'aundre Bonds was initially given a role in the film. On the night that he learned he was awarded the role, he attended a family celebration and was involved in an altercation with his aunt's boyfriend. The altercation ended with Bonds stabbing the man to death. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Antwone Fisher was working as a security guard at Sony Studios. Studio executives began hearing about his life story and offered to buy the rights. But Fisher refused insisting that he write the screenplay himself. Fisher wrote 41 drafts until he sold it to Fox.
Derek Luke was working at the Sony Studios gift shop when he met Antwone Fisher who was working on the lot as a security guard. When Fisher's screenplay was bought by Fox Searchlight, Luke asked Fisher for a copy of the script. He went to the casting director unannounced and asked to audition. He has since admitted "I was so terrible I started crying" but Luke was invited to audition again. Denzel Washington came to the gift shop to tell Luke that he got the part.