Though Chris Darden’s $1.3 million advance from Regan Books puts him fourth on the list of O J . Simpson trial lawyers making multimillion-dollar book deals, the prosecutor can legitimately claim to be the first to make a feature film deal. My colleague Army Archerd spied Darden lunching recently with producer Steve Tisch, and sure enough, the “Forrest Gump” co-producer has closed a deal with Darden that will pay him a $75,000 advance, leading to a $1 million payday if the film gets made. The deal was brokered by William Morris’ Norman Brokaw and Rob Carlson, and it calls for Darden to co-write the script and co-produce.
Tisch acknowledges that the public might well have OD’d on O.J., but he feels Darden’s story has a long shelf life. Though he has yet to commission a script, Tisch already is pondering casting possibilities, with “Homicide: Life on the Street” scenestealer Andre Braugher on a list that also includes Denzel Washington and Laurence Fishburne.
Tisch feels a key component of the movie will focus on how Darden, a role model for blacks as a rising star in the L.A. criminal justice system, suddenly found himself perceived as a traitor by many black people for trying to get a murder conviction of another black role model who largely mixed with a predominantly white upper-crust crowd. Simpson has since been ostracized by that crowd, while being embraced and supported by the black community.
“The movie has to be about more than the O.J. stuff, but I find fascinating Darden’s life and who he is, before and after the trial,” said Tisch. “He’s a black man prosecuting a black man. Darden every day had to go back into his community after work, and at the end of the day O.J. was acquitted and went back into his community, which was largely different. There’s a parallel between these two men, going back to the way they grew up, and their educations.”
Tisch thinks the film’s ending is as yet unclear, as Darden, who was often clearly uncomfortable as a star in a spectacle that polarized whites and blacks, is still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life.
The book will be published by late spring, and they’ll hire a script writer early next year.