Known for his affinity for wigs, heavy makeup, and extravagant costumes, Johnny Depp is making a rare move by going a bit more subtle for his next movie role. The actor has been cast as Russell Poole, the L.A. detective who invested the unsolved assassinations of rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, in a new movie called Labyrinth.
Screen Daily was the first to report the news. In the 2002 documentary Biggie & Tupac from Nick Broomfield, Poole said he believed Suge Knight (the nefarious Death Row Records mogul portrayed in the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton) staged the shooting of Shakur to get out of paying millions to the rapper for royalties. Poole also theorized later on that Knight worked with an LAPD officer named David Mack to kill Smalls in retaliation for Shakur’s murder.
Journalist Randall Sullivan penned a book called “LAbyrinth,” on which the film is based, following Poole’s investigation of a cop-on-cop shooting. Poole found evidence linking the killed officer to Death Row Records, leading him to uncover more cops allied with Knight and the label. He passed away in August of last year due to a heart attack.
Check out a clip featuring Poole’s deductions from Biggie & Tupac below:
Brad Furman (The Infiltrator) is directing Labyrinth based on a screenplay by Christian Contreras. Lately, the allure of Depp’s more extravagant characters, like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, are losing their luster, but the actor did earn some awards nominations from his more character-driven role in Black Mass.
This also marks Depp’s first major casting since his now ex-wife Amber Heard came forward with abuse allegations. After a very public divorce filing, they both issued a joint statement of their “at times volatile” relationship and well wishes for each other in future. It would also seem as though Depp’s celebrity stock in terms of landing Hollywood roles hasn’t dropped too low.
Here’s the official synopsis for LAbyrinth the book:
Acclaimed journalist Randall Sullivan follows Russell Poole, a highly decorated LAPD detective who in 1997 was called to investigate a controversial cop-on-cop shooting, eventually to discover that the officer killed was tied to Marion “Suge” Knight’s notorious gangsta rap label, Death Row Records. During his investigation, Poole came to realize that a growing cadre of black officers were allied not only with Death Row, but with the murderous Bloods street gang. And incredibly, Poole began to uncover evidence that at least some of these “gangsta cops” may have been involved in the murders of rap superstars Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. Igniting a firestorm of controversy in the music industry and the Los Angeles media, the hardcover publication of LAbyrinth helped to prompt two lawsuits against the LAPD (one brought by the widow and mother of Notorious B.I.G., the other brought by Poole himself) that may finally bring this story completely out of the shadows.