The idea of a film about the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, California is one that has long been bandied about by Hollywood studios. While the events have been a feature of some productions – such as the recent Straight Outta Compton – they have never really been the focus of a high profile movie. This is about to change, however, with the news that Academy Award winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) is to write and direct an as-yet-untitled narrative film about the L.A riots, for Broad Green Pictures and Imagine Entertainment.
The L.A riots were the largest pattern of civil disturbances to take place in the U.S in 25 years. A city already buckling under the strain of racial tension exploded in a violent rage with the acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers, who had been tried for beating citizen Rodney King, almost to the point of death. The unrest began just an hour after the verdict was announced, with the vandalism of a local store. As it spread to other areas, police officers found themselves outnumbered by angry citizens and retreated – leaving a large area abandoned by law enforcement for several hours. During this time, beatings and vandalism were documented by reporters and broadcast live as part of rolling media coverage, while open gun battles between store owners and armed looters took place.
As the riots reached their peak, the Los Angeles Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, Highway Patrol, and California Army National Guard worked to regain control of the situation – eventually receiving on-the-ground support from 3,500 federal military personnel by the fourth day, while tens of thousands of Los Angeles citizens staged a peace rally. While the city-wide curfew – implemented on the second day by Mayor Tom Bradley – was finally lifted after six days, a reduced military presence remained in the area for almost a month. The following year, federal charges of civil rights violations were brought against the four officers involved in the inciting incident, with two being found guilty, and two being acquitted.
The film planned by John Ridley will apparently see the events unfold from the perspective of key figures involved in the run-up to the riots, as well as the riots themselves. It is being developed with Imagine producer Brian Grazer, who has been shepherding various versions of an L.A riots movie for years – almost making one with Universal, with Spike Lee at the helm. As the film was announced, Grazer explained why John Ridley is the right choice to bring these events to the big screen.
“We have barely seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of John Ridley’s talent. I am confident that he will capture the magnitude of the events that unfolded and the issues that led up to them. He will show the world why the riots cannot and should not be forgotten.”
Broad Green Pictures CEO Gabriel Hammond and Chief Creative Officer Daniel Hammond also detailed their excitement at having John Ridley lead the production.
“This is a seminal event in our country’s history, the reverberations of which are still far too relevant today. We were blown away by John’s amazing screenplay and we know that under his direction and the aegis of Imagine the film will be truly incredible. This is why we started this company – to make movies like this.”
John Ridley’s L.A riots film is due to begin production in the Spring of 2016, so the wait for news of casting choices for the project shouldn’t be too long. From those, it should become clear exactly which key figures the narrative will centre on, and consequently, what the scope of the final film will be.