Proving you don’t have to live in L.A. to “go Hollywood,” writing-directing-producing team Darren Romeo and Josh Soloman — working from their Washington, D.C. base — are at work on three projects they recently set up.
The first project for the 22-year-olds is “Small World” at Def Pictures. Will Smith is attached to exec-produce the film and Tamra Davis (“CB4,” “Billy Madison”) is set to direct.
Romeo and Soloman are attached to associate produce “Small World,” which is based on a spec Romeo began writing when he was a student at the University of North Carolina.
Project is described as a dark pic with comic elements and explores class, race and religion through the relations between upper-middle class blacks, Jews and lower-middle class blacks.
Honest look at race
“Josh is Jewish and I’m black,” Romeo told Daily Variety from his D.C. home. “And we wanted to take an honest look at race, people’s motives for doing things and flipping the script on stereotypes.”
Soon after setting up “Small World,” the duo met the Hughes Brothers and Romeo was hired to write “Trick Baby” for Universal Pictures.
Pic is a remake of U’s little-seen 1973 film, retitled “Double Con,” which was based on the book by Iceberg Slim (the pseudonym for Robert Beck, who also wrote “Pimp”).
Romeo has returned to the book, which tells the story of White Folks, a black con-artist whose pale skin allows him to pass himself off as a white man. The story also recounts White Folks’ tragic early life, when he was rejected by children his own age as being “Trick Baby,” the illegitimate offspring of a hooker and her trick.
Racial disguise is familiar terrain for Soloman, who earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination a few years ago for an article he wrote while an intern for the Washington Post. Titled “Skin Deep,” the story recreates John Howard Griffin’s real-life account of a white reporter who poses as a black man so he could experience racial prejudice firsthand.
“The aim was to recreate ‘Black Like Me’ and see if anything had changed since then,” said Soloman.
The article’s film rights later were purchased by TriStar Pictures for producer Wendy Finerman.
Finally, Romeo and Soloman are co-writing the quirky biopic “Rainbow Man” for Working Title Films with fellow scribe team Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (“The People vs. Larry Flynt”) to produce.
Referring to the project as “Jesus Christ, Super Freak,” Romeo and Soloman said the story is about the eccentric character who frequented professional sporting events — particularly pro football in L.A. and the Bay Area — from the mid-70s to mid-90s, donning a rainbow afro wig and preaching salvation while holding up a John 3:16 sign for the TV cameras.
According to Romeo, the man — who is now in prison for a hostage incident at the Los Angeles airport — “is basically this ridiculous character who lived an amazing life thinking he was saving the world, but is basically a nobody to everyone.”
However, they add that there are enough coincidences and urban lore for the screenplay to suggest that the man could in fact have been the Messiah.
Though they’ve had great success so far, the pair said their goal is to develop original projects for Romeo to direct and Soloman to produce.
“Basically we had to sell scripts to get by so we could write our own stuff,” said Soloman.
Meanwhile, Soloman and Romeo are putting the finishing touches on one spec that their reps will shop around town; and the duo is at work on at least two more scripts that they intend for Romeo to direct and Soloman to produce independently.
Soloman and Romeo are repped by Endeavor and managed by 3 Arts Entertainment.