EXCLUSIVE: As Anthony Mackie this week reprises the role of the winged Falcon in Captain America: Civil War, he’s signed on to star in a movie about the case that made a legal superhero out of Johnnie Cochran. And this one didn’t involve OJ Simpson. Mackie is set to play Cochran in an untitled film about his 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.
The film is being backed by The Firm, and Mackie and Jason Spire will produce with Robbie Brenner, The Firm’s president of film whom they first worked with on the Frank E. Flowers-directed Haven. Kevin McKeon and Jeff Kwatinetz will also produce and McMillan is exec producer.
The legacy of Cochran was elevated with the FX series The People V O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story; this feature has its own timely context. 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. Cochran died in 2005.
Aside from Captain America, Mackie co-stars as Martin Luther King Jr alongside Bryan Cranston’s Lyndon Baines Johnson in the Jay Roach-directed All The Way, which premieres May 21 on HBO. Mackie is separately percolating Make A Wish at Paramount with Dear White People helmer Justin Simien, and Mackie continues to work on his passion project about Olympian sprinter Jesse Owens.
The Signal Hill drama is 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 in the works.
Mackie is repped by UTA and Inspire.