'Notorious' scribe takes on Run-DMC

Cheo Hodari Coker will adapt 'Tougher Than Leather'

Cheo Hodari Coker is making himself quite a morbid niche: writing biopics about slain rap stars.

The "Notorious" screenwriter is attached to adapt Bill Adler's "Tougher Than Leather: The Rise of Run-DMC -- The Authorized Biography" for DJ Classicz, the urban arm of Davis Entertainment. DJ Classicz president Dallas Jackson optioned the book recently and will produce with production partner John Davis.

Adler, the group's former publicist, will executive produce.

While Fox Searchlight's "Notorious," released two weeks ago, outlines the life and premature death of Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G., "Tougher" will explore the history of hip-hop's first superstars: Joseph "Run" Simmons, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels and Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, who was shot to death in his Queens studio in 2002.

With such hits as "It's Like That," "It's Tricky," "My Adidas" and "Walk This Way," Run-DMC exploded from the Queens neighborhood of Hollis onto the international stage with the help of future mogul Russell Simmons. An early MTV staple and platinum-selling act, the group influenced much of rap's future royalty. Retired since Mizell's death, Run-DMC will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 4.

"It's an extraordinary rags-to-riches journey that I'm eager to bring to the screen," Jackson said. "And I'm hoping to have Run, DMC and Russell Simmons' involvement. This will be a big movie about the 1980s hip-hop movement that took over the world."

Jackson also has "Lil Homiez" at Overture, with Robert Townsend attached to direct, and is writing and producing a remake of "The Last Dragon" for Columbia, with Samuel L. Jackson attached to star. Davis is producing "Gulliver's Travels," starring Jack Black, for Fox, where Davis Entertainment has a home. Davis and Jackson formed DJ Classicz two years ago.

Coker, repped by CAA and Caliber Media, this week signed on to pen the Imagine/Universal car-culture project "Lowriders." A former journalist, Coker also is a co-executive producer on "Tougher."