EXCLUSIVE: The legacy of superstar lawyer Johnnie Cochran has been elevated with the FX series The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Now, the litigator who died in 2005 will be the subject of a feature film. The Firm has acquired a drama spec that tells of Cochran’s dogged pursuit of justice in the Signal Hill police brutality case in 1981. The script is by David McMillan, who was among last year’s Fox Writers Intensive finalists and recently was a staff writer on Lucifer.
While Cochran would go on to represent celebrities from Simpson to Michael Jackson and Jim Brown, his rise to fame as an advocate for blacks suffering in police brutality cases was galvanized by his work in the landmark Signal Hill case. He represented a football player, Cal State Long Beach star Ron Settles, who had been picked up for speeding in Signal Hill, in Los Angeles County. Shortly after his arrest, he was found hanged in his cell. The police called it a suicide, but an autopsy — performed after Cochran persuaded Settles’ family to exhume the body — showed that he had been choked to death. The family was awarded $760,000 in a civil suit, the police chief resigned, and reforms were mandated.
The Firm’s film division president Robbie Brenner will produce along with Firm creative exec Kevin McKeon, while The Firm CEO Jeff Kwatinetz will be exec producer. This becomes the third movie hatched since The Firm’s film division was launched by Brenner, who produced Dallas Buyers Club. The Jennifer Garner starrer Tribes of Palos Verdes shoots this month in L.A., and The Paladin also is percolating.
Brenner called McMillan’s script “incredibly well written and timely. The subject matter resonates now just as powerfully as it did in 1981, and we look forward to making an honest, provocative and challenging film.”
McMillan is repped by CAA, Grandview and attorney Michael Auerbach.