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Filming the Simpson Saga : Producer, Star Say Non-Judgmental TV Movie Will Try to Provide Insight Into the Drama


Los Angeles has become both the backdrop and the back lot for the O.J. Simpson saga.

Downtown last week, attorneys for accused murderer Simpson were battling to persuade Judge Lance A. Ito that those who assembled evidence allegedly linking the football great's DNA to the site at which his former wife Nicole and her friend, Ronald Goldman, were killed were more bumbling than the Keystone Kops.

Over the Hollywood Hills in Sherman Oaks, meanwhile, at a home doubling as Simpson's Brentwood mansion, the momentous initial meeting between Simpson and attorney Robert Shapiro was being re-enacted for a Fox TV movie.

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

Simpson: "Yeah."

Shapiro: "Pretty angry."

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

Shapiro: "Did you ever threaten her?"

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

Shapiro: "Sure."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday August 30, 1994 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Column 3 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
'Simpson Story'-- It was incorrectly reported Monday that "The O.J. Simpson Story," a TV movie being made for the Fox network, would depict Simpson using drugs. It will not. Bobby Hosea, the actor portraying Simpson, was misquoted. A spokeswoman for Fox says that no scenes of drug use even existed in the script and Hosea never said they did.

Simpson: "Then you know how it is."

This exchange is from "The O.J. Simpson Story," set to air soon after jury selection is completed for Simpson's double-murder trial.

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: "You bastard" is scrawled inside the greeting card. "The DNA proves you did it. FRY."

But executive producer Robert Lovenheim is maintaining his equanimity. "I was in my office one Friday afternoon and started getting furious and frantic calls from some execs I knew at Fox, asking if I'd be interested in joining them in this," says Lovenheim. "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 that Simpson and his friend, A.C. Cowlings, made their celebrated driving tour of Southern California's freeways, which Lovenheim caught, like the rest of the country, on TV. "After that, I was hooked."

Bobby Hosea, the actor who is portraying Simpson, says other black actors warned him against playing the football hero-turned-suspected-murderer. "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 going to touch this movie,' " Hosea says. "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 going to help your exposure. All that's going to help is some producer and some network.'

"That's the kind of input I was getting from the outside. I wanted to hear what they were saying, but I knew in my heart that what I was doing was right."

Hosea, himself a former football player, considers Simpson a major influence in his life and says he's doing his best to depict him honestly: "The last thing he needs is a bad movie about him. He's got enough problems."


Lovenheim says that 60% of "The O.J. Simpson Story" will focus on Simpson's life before the murders. It will open at the beginning of the week that Brown and Goldman were found dead, using flashbacks to tell Simpson's life story, and will conclude with him sitting in the Ford Bronco in the driveway at his home later that week, preparing to surrender to the police officers surrounding him.

Lovenheim acknowledges that some of the material--such as the dialogue between Simpson and Shapiro--is based on supposition. "Our efforts are 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 a room and grab a microphone," explains Lovenheim, who himself bares a striking resemblance to the attorney. "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. . . . We're not quoting every line of his word for word, but if he's expressing a certain point of view in what he's saying, we're saying, 'All right, we have a little license to create dialogue that he had with O.J. about a discussion on the same topic.' "

In fact, he says, "I just heard that the actor who plays A.C. Cowlings happened to run into the real A.C. and talked to him about his role and what happened during those 6 1/2 hours in the Bronco, which has always been a big question mark, and from what we've inferred, we were more accurate than we knew."

(David Roberson, who plays Cowlings, confirms he met his real-life counterpart--"He was very nice"--but laughs at the suggestion that he asked about the infamous excursion.)

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