Neil Brown Jr.
Neil Brown Jr.

A new scripted feature film on the 1990s investigation into the unsolved murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, is in development; however, the story will unfold through the eyes of the Los Angeles detective – Russell Poole – who was in charge of the inquiry.

Johnny Depp is attached to star in what was said to be a very attractive project (to buyers) at the Toronto film market last month, which runs annually in conjunction with the Toronto International Film Festival.

Good Universe repped the film, titled “LAbyrinth,” which is based on a book of the same name by Randall Sullivan.

The film will also dig into the uncovered corruption in the LAPD that Poole encountered, thanks to his dogged legwork, after endless dead ends in the cases.

Following recent news that Rockmond Dunbar and Forest Whitaker joined Depp in the film, to play characters named Dreadlocks and Jack Jackson (the journalist who teams up with Poole) in the film, Neil Brown Jr. (DJ Yella in last year’s “Straight Outta Compton”) has also booked a role in the film, per a Deadline report today, to play Rafael Perez, the former dirty LAPD officer and central figure in the Rampart scandal, who was accused of murdering the Notorious B.I.G. (the LAPD Rampart scandal refers to widespread corruption in the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) anti-gang unit of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart Division in the late 1990s).

Brad Furman (“The Lincoln Lawyer”) is attached to direct “LAbyrinth” which Open Road Films recently picked up distribution rights to. Writer Christian Contreras adapted Randall Sullivan’s book of the same name.

Good Films is producing.

Russell Poole (who Depp will play) was a decorated LA detective who devoted many months to the investigation, leading him to eventually conclude that “gangsta cops in his own force were not only involved but were also tied to Death Row Records and the Bloods street gang.” Obviously LAPD brass weren’t too pleased with Poole for making this public, and he would later go into early retirement. He died on August 19, 2015.

So this is a film that’s less about Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, and more about Poole and his investigation. But given the subject matter, it’s safe to assume that there will probably be a few key roles for black actors to play in the film, including those which Dunbar, Whitaker and Brown Jr. have been cast in.

By the way, there are other Tupac/Biggie projects on the way. First, Morgan Creek’s upcoming “All Eyez on Me,” stars Demetrius Shipp Jr. playing Tupac. He’s joined by Danai Gurira as Afeni Shakur, Dominic L. Santana as Suge Knight, Annie Ilonzeh as Kidada Jones, Grace Gibson as Faith Evans, Jamie Hector as Tupac’s stepfather Mutulu Shakur, Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett Smith, and Jamal Woolard as Biggie Smalls.

Benny Boom is directing the film.

No release date has been set yet, but I’d expect a late 2016, early 2017 release.

And second, Anthony Hemingway is shifting from his work on FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” and turning his true-crime lens on the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls (a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.) in an upcoming project for the USA Network.

Based on the experiences of former LAPD Detective Greg Kading, who wrote the book “Murder Rap: The Untold Story of Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations,” a pilot has been ordered for “Unsolved,” which will chronicle the two major police investigations into the rappers’ murders. Hemingway will direct the pilot and serve as an Executive Producer, alongside Mark Taylor and Kyle Long, who is penning the script.