EXCLUSIVE: The life and death of Don Simpson, the producer behind American Gigolo, Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop, and Top Gun, is the subject of a new podcast series from iHeartRadio.
Actor Malaya Rivera Drew (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) will host 24-episode series The Don, which will be exec produced by recent Academy Award winner Will McCormack and Snatch producer David Harris Kline.
The series will investigate the bizarre circumstances surrounding Don’s fatal overdose and chronicles the sordid cast of drug dealers, Hollywood madams and crooked doctors who may have been complicit in his death.
The first six episodes will launch on May 11.
The anthology podcast will begin with Simpson’s early days fighting to break into the film industry through his rise as a blockbuster producer into the dark days after the failure of Days of Thunder and his struggles with drugs and alcohol.
When Simpson died in January of 1996, the Los Angeles coroner revealed that his corpse was the most toxic in the history of California autopsy with over 22 different pharmaceuticals in his body at the time of death. The podcast delves into the many questions regarding his career and death, such as his controversial relationship with his personal doctor, fitness guru, and indie filmmaking partner, Dr. Stephen Ammerman, who passed away just six months earlier from an overdose in Simpson’s pool house.
It will also explore how his outlandish, alpha-male behavior was not only tolerated in the film business but encouraged by the executives who profited greatly off his signature style of filmmaking.
The Don will use narration, clips, and fictional re-enactments via “lost tapes” to take listeners behind the scenes into the 1980s.
“This new anthology style podcast shows how audio has the ability to paint a picture perfect experience for listeners,” said McCormack. “The powerful use of narration and story-telling sets the scene, allowing listeners to go back in time to the 1980s, an iconic time in Hollywood for many reasons, but also a defective time. Although Don Simpson was flawed in many ways, this podcast works hard to capture how influential he was and shares his complete story and I think our listeners will appreciate that.”
“We are excited to work with iHeart on a series that is so quintessentially the 1980s,” added Kline. “We all have a soft spot for 80s nostalgia — we love the movies, the music, the fashion, and how earnestly people took themselves back then. There was no irony, no internet, and no social media. The premise of our series is how Don was a rags-to-riches movie producer that shaped and influenced the decade that we all love. However, there was a dark side to Don and his massive influence over mainstream American culture. We peel back the layers, and behind the shallow glamour of the 80s, we find something much darker and more nefarious.”
“As an actress and as a woman of color, I was shocked but not surprised to learn of how virulent and rampant toxic masculinity was in Hollywood back then,” said Rivera Drew. “This podcast is meant to be an entertaining, high octane ride—the rise and fall of a creative genius. Don was, above all else, an entertainer. But we also expose a deep underbelly of Hollywood and the systemic issues that we are still grappling with today.”