WESTPORT, Conn. — “Marshall,” a feature film written by Westport Attorney Michael Koskoff and his screenwriter son Jacob is set to hit theaters nationwide on October 12.
The film, which chronicles a sensational Bridgeport trial that helped cement future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s early reputation, stars Chadwick Boseman in the title role and Kate Hudson as Eleanor Strubing, a Greenwich socialite who accused her chauffeur of rape.
“Jake and I are just thrilled that the movie is finally coming to the big screen," Michael Koskoff told Daily Voice. "We hope people will see it, enjoy it, learn from it and be inspired by it.”
USA Today put “Marshall” on its “10 movies you absolutely must see this fall” list and current events have made its subject quite timely.
“While maybe not on the level of fame of Brown v. Board of Education, the case showed a period in history where the war for white supremacy happening in Europe mirrored what was happening in parts of America,” the article states.
In the pre-dawn hours on a chilly December night in 1940, two truckers saw a soaking wet Strubing limping near Westchester County’s Kensico Reservoir.
Taking her in, they listened as she told them she’d been raped repeatedly by her African-American chauffeur, who dumped her off a bridge into the frigid waters.
Within hours, 31-year-old Joseph Spell was in police custody, accused of attacking his employer, and so began a trial that made national headlines.
It also caught the eye of Koskoff, who has spent the last seven years writing a screenplay about the case and its lead attorney, who would go on to become the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court justice.
“The Marshall they’ll see in this movie is not the one they see in their mind’s eye,” the elder Koskoff told Daily Voice. “I think it will be a revelation to people.”
Koskoff, a partner at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, was drawn to the story, in part because of his own experience with Civil Rights law, including the historic Black Panther trials in New Haven. A trial attorney for 50 years, he was struck by the way Marshall and fellow defense attorney Samuel Friedman, who was a Jew, worked together on the case.
“The story of these two courageous men -- one African American and one Jewish -- who took on an unpopular cause, hopefully will inspire everyone to work together to continue the battle for justice," Koskoff said.
Since the odds of getting a film produced are “astronomically against you,” Koskoff turned to his son Jacob for help with character development.
“Throughout this process we collaborated in a way we hadn’t since he coached my Little League teams when I was a kid; it was a true delight,” said the Westport native who now lives in California. “I’ve always known how intelligent and creative he is, what a remarkable and successful attorney. What I didn’t fully appreciate until now is his relentless optimism, that he really lacks a single cynical bone in his body.”
Reginald Hudlin, who produced “Django Unchained,” directed the film. Friedman is played by Josh Gad.
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