Long before O.J.: Made In America…
Before The People vs. O.J. Simpson…
Before American Tragedy…
Before today’s live, televised parole hearing…
There was The O.J. Simpson Story.
In 1994, shortly after O.J. Simpson was charged with the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, Fox rushed The O.J. Simpson Story into production. It was one of many “true life” stories that showed up as television movies during the 90s. There was a movie about Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s divorce. There was a movie about David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, which actually aired while the siege in Waco was still ongoing. There were three movies about Amy Fisher. So, of course, O.J. would get a movie.
Though the movie was produced in 1994, it was not allowed to air in 1995 so that it would not prejudice any of the jurors in the case. (After all, they might have done something crazy like ignore all of the DNA evidence and let O.J. go free.) I think the legal authorities may have been giving The O.J. Simpson Story too much credit. There were many bad made-for-TV movies made in the 90s but The O.J. Simpson Story may very well be the worst. The only thing it could prejudice some against is television.
Opening with the discovery of the murders in Brentwood, The O.J. Simpson Story mixes scenes of O.J. (played by Bobby Hosea, who shows not a hint of O.J.s famous charisma) talking to the police and his lawyer, Bob Shapiro (Bruce Weitz, slightly more credible than John Travolta was in The People vs. O.J. Simpson) with flashbacks to O.J.’s youth, first marriage, and his relationship with Nicole (blandly played by Jessica Tuck, who, beyond the color of her hair, looked nothing like Nicole). The film also devotes some time to O.J.’s friendship with A.C. Cowlings, who, as a young man, is played by Terrence Howard.
Several of the famous incidents of the case are wanly recreated. The famous bronco chase is there, of course. O.J. is shown beating Nicole in the infamous 1989 incident, which the movie suggests was triggered by Nicole telling O.J. that he would never win an Oscar for appearing in The Naked Gun. But, since the movie was rushed into production before the trial even began, it is remarkable how much is left out. There’s no Mark Furhman finding the black glove. There’s no Kate Kaelin, Faye Resnick, Johnnie Cochran, or even Marcia Clark. Because the movie was made before the trial had even begun, it does not even take a stand on whether or not O.J.’s guilty. Narratively, it is an incomplete movie and evidence of why movies that claim to tell true stories should not be rushed into production before the story itself has been completed.
As for the film’s dialogue, when O.J. first meets Nicole, he asks her, “Any problem with going out with a brother?”
“Yeah,” Nicole says with a smile, “I’m in the Ku Klux Klan.”
Not surprisingly, The O.J. Simpson Story was directed by Alan Smithee, which was the pseudonym used by directors who felt that their movie has been so butchered by outside interference that they should not even be credited with the final result. The O.J. Simpson Story is one of the worst Smithee films that I have ever seen. Compared to The O.J. Simpson Story, Smithee’s work on Let’s Get Harry was Oscar-worthy.
As for the real life O.J. Simpson, earlier today, he was granted parole from the Nevada Parole Board. He will be released from prison on October 1st. He has said that he hope to be allowed to move to Florida after being released. The real-life O.J. Simpson story continues.
When it comes to the long saga of O.J. Simpson, it seems appropriate to give the last word to MAD Magazine: