John Lee Hancock wrote the screenplay for Warner Bros’ crime thriller The Little Things in 1992, around the time he penned A Perfect World and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, both for director Clint Eastwood. At the time an in-demand screenwriter, he hadn’t been a director yet, and the script, about a pair of cops who try to catch a serial killer, went through several iterations.
After Hancock found success as a director — his helming credits include The Rookie, The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks and later The Founder — the project eventually came around to him, but “it was kind of a dark movie and I had little kids at the time, and I didn’t necessarily want to live in that place for two years.”
His kids in college and with Hancock at the helm, The Little Things is now a big thing: The Warner Bros pic stars a trio of Oscar winners in Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as the cops and Jared Leto as the creepy Albert Sparma, a role that has already earned him Golden Globe and SAG Awards supporting actor noms.
Washington plays Deke, a burnt-out Kern County, CA deputy sheriff who teams with Baxter (Malek), a crack Los Angeles Sheriff’s department detective, to nab Sparma. Deke’s nose for the “little things” proves eerily accurate, but his willingness to circumvent the rules embroils Baxter in a soul-shattering dilemma. Meanwhile, Deke must wrestle with a dark secret from his past.
Hancock kept the timeframe of the story in the early 1990s, meaning that what was at the time contemporary crime thriller was now a period piece of sorts. “I wanted to make it harder on the detectives — the more grueling it is, the darker it becomes,” he explained during Deadline’s Contenders Film awards-season event last month. “Before cell phones, they couldn’t stay in touch, they constantly had to have a roll of quarters and know where the public phones were. … I just like period setting in L.A. in that era.”
Warner Bros opened the pic January 28 in theaters and on HBO Max.
Read Hancock’s script below: