One key player wouldn’t talk for ESPN’s Simpson murder epic ‘O.J.: Made in America’

Director Ezra Edelman, right, and ESPN's Connor Schell talk about "O.J.: Made in America" at the TCA press tour in Pasadena on Tuesday.

Director Ezra Edelman, right, and ESPN’s Connor Schell talk about “O.J.: Made in America” at the TCA press tour in Pasadena on Tuesday.

(Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

The saga of the NFL’s most notorious running back is retold in “O.J.: Made in America.” But one player didn’t sit for an interview: O.J. Simpson himself.

“Oh, we tried,” Ezra Edelman, who directed the five-part documentary for ESPN Films, told journalists Tuesday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena. “O.J. was not interviewed for the film. He’s never done interviews since he’s been in jail.”

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Simpson, a 1968 Heisman Trophy winner and former Buffalo Bills star, has been in prison since 2008 for armed robbery and other crimes. During the mid-1990s, his trial for the murders of his ex-wife and a friend captivated the nation, resulting in a highly controversial acquittal.

The ESPN series -- which will premiere later this month at the Sundance Film Festival before being telecast at a yet-to-be-announced date in mid-2016 -- interviews many of the principals in the murder case, including former prosecutor Marcia Clark. At the time, Clark and others were often blamed for bungling the case against Simpson, now 68. But the ESPN film looks to take a more circumspect and informed approach.

“I think they certainly were overwhelmed by forces,” Edelman said of the prosecution team, adding that the film looks at the complex racial, geographic and cultural factors that helped Simpson’s defense. “It was about the best time O.J. could have been on trial for murder.”

Viewers are going to get two big helpings of O.J. this year. FX in February will premiere “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” a docudrama retelling from star producer Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “Scream Queens”) featuring John Travolta and other stars playing the real-life characters.

As for the ESPN film, it will stick to the facts, although they may not reappear exactly as viewers remember them. The Kardashian clan, for instance, won’t get much screen time, according to ESPN Films senior vice president Connor Schell, even though family patriarch Robert Kardashian served as one of Simpson’s attorneys and confidants.

“He’s in the film but he’s not a prominent part of the film,” Schell said of Kardashian. “Beyond that, there’s maybe one reference to the Kardashians as a thing, way at the end.”


What do you think of the Simpson projects? Will you watch?

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT


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