Where Is Robert Shapiro Now? The 'American Crime Story' Lawyer Has Branched Out Since O.J. Simpson's Trial
Even compared to the acclaimed recurring cast of American Horror Story, the cast of American Crime Story is probably the most sprawling that Ryan Murphy has ever put together… and one of the most stacked with talent. Given the convoluted nature of the O.J. Simpson trial, the roster of participants includes everyone from family members to witnesses to police officers to lawyers to judges to reporters — many played by familiar faces like Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. But one face stands out from the crowd: John Travolta as Simpson's defense lawyer Robert Shapiro. If you're like me, then Travolta's kooky performance (and those eyebrows!) probably made you curious about the real man behind the character. Where is Robert Shapiro now?
Before joining Simpson's defense, Shapiro had already made a name for himself as something of a celebrity lawyer, representing the likes of late night host Johnny Carson and adult film star Linda Lovelace. Despite the popular moniker of the "Dream Team," Shapiro didn't often get along with his co-counsel, particularly Johnnie Cochran, as he revealed in an interview with Barbara Walters after the trial, which was reported by the Los Angeles Times. He claimed to be "deeply offended" by Cochran's comparison of LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman to Adolf Hitler, and disagreed with Cochran's legal strategies, telling Walters that, "Not only did we play the race card, we dealt it from the bottom of the deck." The LA Times also reported that in response to these comments, Cochran told KNBC-TV that "Shapiro is possessed by 'demons that need to be exorcised,'" and said, "We did not realize the damage it would do to his ego not to be lead attorney."
Despite these clashes within the Dream Team, Simpson was acquitted for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman… and Shapiro's formidable career continued unabated. Here are some of the high-profile things the lawyer has been up to since the infamous 1995 trial:
Shapiro has co-authored two books, the first of which — 2002's Misconception — was a fictional legal thriller in the vein of John Grisham's popular novels. In its review of Shapiro's first book, Publishers Weekly claimed, "The characters are dull-witted and monotonously attractive, and the plot twists might be cribbed from Presumed Innocent and Fatal Attraction. Of course, the courtroom scenes are expertly rendered, but they're nothing we haven't seen on TV." Shapiro's second book — 2009's The Search For Justice — was a non-fiction account of (his side of) the Simpson trial. The New York Times reviewer insisted that the book, "would better have been titled The Search For Justice For Robert L. Shapiro. The book is less about the trial than about his anxieties … Mr. Shapiro is a hardened lawyer from a bitterly litigious town. Can we now see him as choirboy and keeper of courtroom politesse? I don't think so."
TV & Film
Shapiro was made so famous by the Simpson trial that he became a semi-regular fixture on the small screen for a time, appearing as himself (or versions of himself, at least) in documentaries (1995's The Trial Of O.J. Simpson), talk shows (Larry King Live), reality TV (Keeping Up With The Kardashians), and scripted dramas (HBO's Arli$$, CBS' Shark — on which he also served as a legal consultant). He even had a small role in one feature film, the 2005 drama Havoc (above), which starred Anne Hathaway as a wealthy L.A. teen who gets embroiled with an inner city gang.
In 2001, Shapiro helped launch the popular website LegalZoom, an online service for basic legal needs like wills, prenups, and patents. While such a site seems like it's squarely in Shapiro's wheelhouse, his next online venture was something of a curveball: in 2009, he co-founded the retail website ShoeDazzle, which sells handbags, jewelry, and (you guessed it!) shoes. Interestingly enough, one of ShoeDazzle's other co-founders was Kim Kardashian, daughter of fellow Dream Team member (and personal friend of Simpson's) Robert Kardashian.
In a tragic turn of events, one of Shapiro's two sons, 24-year-old Brent, overdosed on ecstasy after attending a party in October of 2005, as reported by LA Weekly. Shapiro responded to this loss by founding The Brent Shapiro Foundation For Alcohol And Drug Awareness which, according to its mission statement, is devoted to "raising awareness," "removing the stigma," "providing support," and "creating educational tools" in order to change "the way people who have this disease [addiction] are viewed by society."
American Crime Story
Although Travolta did not meet with Shapiro personally before portraying the lawyer on Murphy's new drama, the two men did correspond. "I got a letter from Shapiro telling me that he was happy that I was playing him," the actor told People at the Television Critics Association press tour last month. Of the four Dream Team members highlighted on the show (Shapiro, Cochran, Kardashian, and F. Lee Bailey) only Shapiro and Bailey are still living. Kardashian passed away from esophageal cancer in 2003, and Cochran died of a brain tumor in 2005. In a 2012 Fox News report, Shapiro said that he was no longer practicing criminal defense, but rather "My focus now is on business law and civil litigation."
You can catch Travolta's portrayal of Shapiro on American Crime Story every Tuesday night at 10 p.m. on FX.
Images: Grand Central Publishing; New Line Cinema; Michael Becker/FX