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Those of a certain age group undoubtedly remember the key moments in the O.J. Simpson trial. The gloves. Judge Ito and his courtroom antics. Johnnie Cochran’s impassioned plea with the jury to acquit. That Bronco chase, perhaps. But with time comes a tendency to forget.
For The People v. O.J. Simpson scribes Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander, diving back into that case was like going down the proverbial rabbit hole. Reading Jeffrey Toobin’s book, The Run of His Life, on which the series was based, was only the beginning. They claim to have 40 or 50 books sitting in their offices, including Simpson’s tome If I Did It, which was ghostwritten by Pablo Fenjves — a witness for the prosecution in the original case. They also waded through a plethora of information, footage and interviews, resulting in the script viewers have seen unfold on FX each week for the past several weeks. It all culminates with Tuesday’s finale, “The Verdict.”
“It was important to us that the last episode ends dramatically, but we also knew at the time that we were going to have to hint about what was going to happen afterwards,” Karaszewski tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The essential thing was wrapping up O.J.’s personal story, which was that when he got out, he thought ‘not guilty’ meant he would be able to go back to his old life of doing Hertz commercials and Naked Gun movies. We had to communicate that his life was going to be ruined, that he could never go back to being the guy he once was.”
Fitting everything into the tight timeline means that certain aspects of the trial wound up compressed (days of DNA evidence wound up warranting a dramatic three-minute scene), while other tidbits were left on the cutting room floor. Alexander and Karaszewski recall Vanity Fair writer Dominick Dunne being called away to do a Princess Diana profile in the middle of the trial, but being worried that he’d lose his seat until Ito convinced him to go. The first thing she asked about was the trial. Or an earlier script of their finale that included Marcia Clark’s emergency dental surgery the night before closing arguments, in which she returned to her office immediately afterwards to continue working through the night.
“There was also a police pal of O.J.’s named Ron Shipp who was at that time working security for O.J. and had this wackadoodle story that O.J. had told him about a dream where he had killed Nicole Brown,” Alexander says. “Shipp actually testified and looked O.J. in the eye and said, ‘This is sad O.J., this is sad.’ Then suddenly Ron Shipp was being jumped upon in the press the next day as a traitor to the black community. It’s endless, how much of this stuff there was.”
Once the cameras fade out on Tuesday, there are no plans for the scribes to follow-up with any more Simpson-related projects. The duo are still disappointed, however, that they weren’t able to somehow incorporate E!’s coverage of the subsequent civil trial, which included nightly reenactments of the transcripts by paid actors when new judge Hiroshi Fujisaki disallowed cameras in the courtroom.
“There’s a world where other writers would have said ‘Oh, fun, we’ll put it in anyway.’ But we didn’t want to fudge anything major,” Alexander says
The duo will remain on board as producers for the second season of American Crime Story, but have no plans to write it. They’re also developing Toobin’s latest book, about Patty Hearst’s kidnapping, into a big screen adaptation for Fox 2000 now that “the ink is wet” on that tome.
“It has a lot of parallels to the O.J. trial in the sense that it was this huge case in the middle of the 1970s in which the radical kidnappers sort of used the press to push their agenda and it became a bit of a media circus as well,” Alexander says. “Obviously there are like 29 more O.J. programs that are going to show up on TV — a tidal wave, or a tsunami of O.J. projects. But I can’t imagine the purpose of dramatizing anything further.”
The People v. O.J. Simpson wraps Tuesday at 10 p.m. on FX.
What have you thought of the series? Sound off in the comments below.
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