Before His Infamous Trial, Former NFL Star O.J. Simpson Tried to Make it as an Actor

The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear O.J. Simpson, 1991
Paramount/Everett Collection

O.J. Simpson recently passed away at 76 years old after a battle with cancer. While Simpson was an NFL player and an actor, he was mostly known for the 1994 trial where he was found not guilty of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. The highly-televised trial has been the subject of many movies and television shows, with the most recent being FX‘s American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. But today, we are here to talk about a time before the ’90s, when Simpson was trying to make it as an actor. Let’s go over some of his most memorable roles.

‘The Naked Gun’ franchise

The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear O.J. Simpson, Leslie Nielsen, George Kennedy, 1991

Paramount/Everett Collection

Simpson appeared in all three Naked Gun films, The Naked Gun, The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, starring Leslie Nielsen as Detective Sergeant Franklin “Frank” Drebin. The crime drama spoof is silly and full of cameos, and Simpson plays Officer Nordberg, best friend and partner to Nielsen’s character. The first film seems to be the most beloved but the entire franchise was fairly popular. A new version is coming in 2025 starring Liam Neeson as Frank Drebin Jr.

‘Here’s Lucy’

Here's Lucy Lucille Ball, O.J. Simpson in 'The Big Game' (Season 6, Episode 2, aired September 17, 1973). 1968-74.

Everett Collection

Did you know that Simpson made a cameo on Lucille Ball‘s show Here’s Lucy? He appears to give Lucy and Harry 50-yard-line stadium tickets.

‘The Towering Inferno’

The Towering Inferno O.J. Simpson, 1974

20th Century-Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection

In 1974, Simpson appeared in The Towering Inferno, based on a novel. The movie is about people in an office building trying to escape during a fire. It also stars Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.

‘Killer Force’

Killer Force aka The Diamond Mercenaries O.J. Simpson, 1976

American International Pictures/Everett Collection

In 1976, Simpson appeared in a movie that was very reminiscent of Oceans 11, where a group of jewel thieves aims to pull off a diamond heist. He played ‘Bopper’ Alexander. Note: this film is sometimes called The Diamond Mercenaries.


This very first role was as an uncredited potential recruit in the popular series, Dragnet.

‘No Place To Hide’

Despite not being much of a seasoned actor, Simpson did manage to make it into some movies with big names attached. He appeared in the 1992 film No Place to Hide with Kris Kristofferson and Drew Barrymore about the mysterious death of a teenage ballerina.


Roots O.J. Simpson, 1977.

Everett Collection

Simpson appeared in one episode of the famous miniseries Roots as Kadi Touray.

‘Capricorn One’

Capricorn One Sam Waterston, James Brolin, O.J. Simpson, 1978

Warner Brothers/Everett Collection

Simpson starred alongside Elliot Gould and James Brolin in the thriller Capricorn One where a reporter discovers that a Mars landing was faked. Simpson plays an astronaut.

Bonus: He filmed an episode of the short-lived show Adventures in Wonderland, based on Alice in Wonderland but the episode was pulled from release when he was arrested and never aired.

Extra Bonus: He was considered for the starring role in The Terminator, famously played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, but was reportedly considered “too nice to play a killer.”

What else would you add to this list?

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