Movie team relieved as Fox postpones its Simpson story

August 29, 1994|By David Kronke | David Kronke,Special to The Sun

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles--It's late August in the town that has become, in the public consciousness, O.J. Land. Downtown, the defense attorneys of O.J. Simpson are battling to convince Judge Lance A. Ito that those who assembled the evidence linking the football great's DNA to the site at which his former wife Nicole and her friend were killed were more bumbling than the Keystone Kops.

Step over the Hollywood Hills into Sherman Oaks, however, at a home doubling as Mr. Simpson's Brentwood mansion, and simultaneously, the momentous initial meetings between Mr. Simpson and famed attorney Robert Shapiro are being re-enacted for a Fox TV movie.

Mr. Shapiro: "You were pretty broken up about the divorce."

Mr. Simpson: "Yeah."

Mr. Shapiro: "Pretty angry."

Mr. Simpson: (pauses, then sighs) "Yeah."

Mr. Shapiro: "Did you ever threaten her?"

Mr. Simpson: "I said a lot of stuff I didn't mean. You're married, right?"

Mr. Shapiro: "Sure."

Mr. Simpson: "Then you know how it is."

This exchange is from "The O.J. Simpson Story," produced by Robert Lovenheim and set to air, until last week, just before jury selection was to begin on the Simpson trial.

Bobby Hosea, the man who would be O.J., says other African-American actors have warned him away from playing the football hero-turned-murder suspect. "They say, 'Don't do it, don't do it, they won't do it right.'

"Another guy told me, 'No brother in town who works with any integrity is gonna touch this movie,' " says Mr. Hosea, who will portray Mr. Simpson in the movie. "I said, 'Why not?' He goes, 'Because it's exploitative.'

"I said, 'You don't think the performance is going to help a brother?' I've been on all kinds of shows, comedies, dramas, 'China Beach,' and no one's been sending me any scripts. I'm auditioning right now for a Klingon. He says, 'No, that's not gonna help your exposure. All that's gonna help is some producer and some network.'

"That's the kind of input I was getting from the outside," says Mr. Hosea. A showbiz veteran who has appeared in a dozen or more TV series, he bares a chilling resemblance to the eminently handsome suspect from certain angles. "I wanted to hear what they were saying, but I knew in my heart that what I was doing was right."

Guilt or innocence

Even though the film purports to offer a non-judgmental version of events, try telling that to the crew. At the Sherman Oaks set, the prop crew has fitted the foyer with a fake Heisman Trophy and some sympathy cards. Peek inside one of those cards, and an anonymous crew member's sentiments come through loud and clear: "The DNA proves you did it" is scrawled inside the greeting card. "FRY."

But Mr. Lovenheim is maintaining his equanimity. "I was in my office one Friday afternoon and started getting furious and frantic calls from some execs at Fox, asking if I'd be interested in joining them in this," he says. "At first I said no, then I said maybe, then I said, 'Well, if you've been doing research on this, send it over.'"

That was the same Friday Simpson and his friend A.C. Cowlings made their celebrated driving tour of Southern California's freeways, which Mr. Lovenheim caught, like the rest of the country, on TV. "After that, I was hooked," he says.

Fox, after complaints from Mr. Shapiro and other media critics, relented and postponed the air date, a decision the principle actors agreed with.

"It was the humane thing to do," says Bruce Weitz, who plays Mr. Shapiro, the man whose protestations about the movie were the most vocal.

"This movie doesn't have to do with the trial, it doesn't have to do with guilt or innocence, but certain people out ther believe that it could be injurious, so sure, why not postpone it?" says Mr. Lovenheim. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a reprieve. I get [more time] to cut the movie."

Regarding charges that the film will be exploitative and spurious, Mr. Lovenheim says 60 percent of the movie will focus on Mr. Simpson's life before the scandal. "Our efforts are twofold: to base every scene here on actual research or 'attitudes,' " he says.

What does he mean by "attitudes?"

"With Bob Shapiro, he's no wallflower when it comes to being able to jump forward, cross the room and grab a microphone," explains Mr. Lovenheim. "The statements he's made to the press certainly indicate enough of what his attitude is, how he sees his client, how he intends to defend him and how he's advised him, that we can base some scenes on that."

Mr. Hosea admits he had reservations when he read the script. "The main thing was drug use," he says. "Now, I'm not being naive, I know cocaine is abused in the real world. But O.J. was never arrested for that. That's hearsay, that's gossip.

"The aspect of spouse abuse, that's recorded," Mr. Hosea continues. "When you have nine times that we know of that the police came to your house, you know you have a problem with your relationship. Yes, it's gonna be ugly, but that's the reality."

'Morally upstanding'

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.