John Ridley, the Oscar-winning scribe of 12 Years A Slave, is now set to direct his Los Angeles Riots script. In its most ambitious move so far, upstart Broad Green Pictures is partnering with Imagine Entertainment to produce and distribute a movie that is untitled but has had numerous manifestations over the years as Imagine’s Brian Grazer developed it at Universal Pictures and almost got it made with Spike Lee directing. They are betting big here on Ridley, who created the Emmy-winning series American Crime. Grazer will produce and production will begin next spring.
The riots happened in April 1992, sparked by the acquittal of four LAPD officers tried for the near-fatal beating of black motorist Rodney King; fueled by racial tension, growing despair surrounding the economic climate, and a deep-seated distrust of law enforcement, the riots left the city devastated. Looting and fires ravaged Los Angeles for four straight days leaving more than 50 dead and 2,300 injured, an estimated $1 billion in property damage and the city divided. Based on true events, the film tells the story through the eyes of several key figures involved in the uprising and the events that led to it.
Hollywood has long been interested in but fearful of this movie, as Grazer tried for years to get it off the ground. He got closest with Lee, who, believe it or not, was in Los Angeles on the day that riots broke out, to show his first four-hour cut of Malcolm X to Warner Bros chiefs Terry Semel and Bob Daly on the Warner Bros lot. They got reports as they watched the movie, and all parties high-tailed it out of there as soon as Lee’s hot-button film was finished. That marriage on L.A. Riots, which came about after Lee directed the hit Inside Man for Imagine and Universal, fell apart over budget. There have been other attempts, but a risk-taking upstart company like Broad Green seems a smart way to get this movie made as the company grows beyond festival acquisitions. There were recent reports of another LA Riots movie, titled April 29, 1992, that purported to have Straight Outta Compton‘s Ice Cube and his son O’Shea Jackson involved, but they denied any involvement at the time. The riots were covered in the F. Gary Gray-directed Straight Outta Compton.
It’s a big step for Ridley, who last directed the indie Jimi: All Is By My Side, the film that starred Andre Benjamin as guitar legend Jimi Hendrix in his formative years. He made his feature debut on Cold Around The Heart and has written scripts that include U-Turn, 3 Kings, Undercover Brother, and the upcoming Ben-Hur remake. Ridley has directed three episodes of American Crime. He has also written seven novels.
Broad Green Pictures founders CEO Gabriel Hammond and Chief Creative Officer Daniel Hammond said, “This is a seminal event in our country’s history, the reverberations of which are still far too relevant today. We were blown away by John’s amazing screenplay and we know that under his direction and the aegis of Imagine the film will be truly incredible. This is why we started this company. To make movies like this.”
Said Grazer: “We have barely seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of John Ridley’s talent. I am confident that he will capture the magnitude of the events that unfolded and the issues that led up to them. He will show the world why the riots cannot and should not be forgotten.”
Victor Moyers and Asher Goldstein will oversee the project for Broad Green. Anna Culp and Alexandre Dauman will oversee the project for Imagine.
The deal was brokered by Brillstein Entertainment and Don and Matthew Walerstein on behalf of Ridley, and CAA and Logan Clare at Ziffren Brittenham on behalf of Imagine. Christopher Tricarico, EVP Business & Legal Affairs and General Counsel, handled for Broad Green.