O.J. Simpson was known as a football legend and natural talent in front of the camera before the murder trial of the century became synonymous with his name. 

Orenthal James Simpson died on Wednesday, April 10, after battling cancer, his family announced online. He was 76.

While he earned fame and fortune as a legendary athlete with Hollywood knocking on his door to book a charming personality, Simpson’s legacy was forever changed with the 1994 killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

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OJ Simpson turned a football stint into a Hollywood career. (Getty Images)

Following his stint at University of Southern California, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1968, Simpson was the first player selected in the 1969 NFL draft. Wildly regarded as one of the greatest running backs to ever play in the NFL, Simpson earned NFL Player of the Year multiple times, and was inducted into the hall of fame in 1985.

His acting career began while he was still playing for the Trojans at USC, with uncredited appearances in “Dragnet,” “The Name of the Game,” and “Ironside.”

While still playing ball, Simpson made his big-screen debut in the 1974 film, “Klansman,” and starred alongside Richard Burton and Lee Marvin. 

A file photo of OJ Simpson with Richard Burton from The Klansman.

O.J. made his film debut alongside Richard Burton in “The Klansman.” (Bettmann Archive via Getty Images)

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The movie wasn’t a success, but helped Simpson establish a name in the acting world. He would go on to appear in “The Towering Inferno,” “The Cassandra Crossing,” “Killer Force,” and the 1977 television mini-series, “Roots.”

Simpson turned the advertising world upside down when he became the face of Hertz rental car company. His slogan, “Go, O.J., Go!” raised brand awareness and helped him become a star in his own right.

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His love for film and television helped him establish his own production company in 1979, Orenthal Productions, where he produced television movies, including his own “Goldie and the Boxer.” Simpson was so enthralled with the industry that he had his sights set on the most coveted awards in cinema.

Actor OJ Simpson shows off his chest in Roots portrait.

Simpson starred as Kadi Touray in “Roots.” (Getty Images)

OJ Simpson acts alongside LeVar Burton in

OJ Simpson acts alongside LeVar Burton in “Roots”.   (ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

“Winning an Oscar or an Emmy. I always put my fantasies in the realm of goals,” Simpson told the Los Angeles Times in 1980. “The Oscar or the Emmy says you’ve reached a level of competence in this business, and I would love to have one.”

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He went on to star in “Detour to Terror,” “Cocaine and Blue Eyes,” and “Hambone and Hillie” before narrowly getting a chance to become “The Terminator.”

Director James Cameron and Mike Medavoy, the co-founder of Orion Pictures which distributed the film, searched for the right person to play resistance fighter Kyle Reese, and were down to Simpson and the then-relatively unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Actor OJ Simpson wears black tuxedo to Oscars in 1976.

Simpson was a presenter at the 48th annual Academy Awards alongside Marisa Berenson. (ABC Photo Archives)

“I had been told by Mike Medavoy that the movie was all cast. ‘I got this all worked out. O.J. Simpson and Arnold Schwarzenegger,'” Cameron recalled in Schwarzenegger’s Netflix docuseries, “Arnold.”

“I said, ‘Well, which is which?’ Those two names just sounded so wrong to me.”

Schwarzenegger remembered that “no one” at Orion believed Simpson could play a killer robot. “During our conversation, it became clear no one was hooked to O.J. Simpson playing Terminator because he could not be sold as a killing machine,” he said.

O.J. Simpson poses alongside Gilda Radner’s and Jane Curtin

O.J. Simpson poses alongside Gilda Radner and Jane Curtin ahead of co-hosting NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” show on February 24, 1978. (Bettmann Archive via Getty Images)

Actor OJ Simpson smiles next to actress Elizabeth Montgomery.

Simpson worked alongside Elizabeth Montgomery in “A Killing Affair.” (Getty Images)

For years, Schwarzenegger claimed he even owned a painting at his home office of Simpson as the Terminator with Arnold’s face painted over it, which Cameron allegedly created. James debunked the theory in 2019 while promoting “Terminator: Dark Fate.”

“Arnold is literally just wrong,” he told the L.A. Times. “I know it’s hard to imagine! You don’t argue with Arnold.”

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He added, “I didn’t make the painting for him. I made the painting for us, for the production, of him as the Terminator. There’s no O.J. under that painting.”

Instead, O.J. dove head first into the world of comedy with the 1988 classic, “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!”

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Actor OJ Simpson sports wool blazer and tie as a detective in Naked Gun trilogy.

Simpson portrayed Det. Nordberg in the crime-spoof franchise flicks. (Paramount)

Simpson portrayed Det. Nordberg in the crime-spoof flick, which featured Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley and Ricardo Montalban. He reprised his role for the 1991 sequel, “The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear,” and in the 1994 hit, “Naked Gun 33 ⅓: The Final Insult.”

His last TV movie, “Frogmen,” never made it to air.

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Simpson was 46 when he was arrested in June 1994 in the murders of his ex-wife and her friend, Ron Goldman. 

He pleaded not guilty, and, after an 11-month trial, was found not guilty of the double murders. It was considered the “trial of the century” at the time due to its heavy media attention.

O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson

O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson were married for seven years before they divorced in 1992. Nicole was murdered in 1994.    (Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images)

Three years later, he was found liable in a wrongful death suit and ordered to pay $33.5 million to the relatives of the families of the murder victims.

Simpson had late Hollywood powerhouse lawyer Robert Kardashian in his corner decades before he helped in his trial, but their friendship ended once he was acquitted of charges.

On Oct. 3, 2008, 15 years to the day after he was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife and Ron Goldman, Simpson was found guilty of 12 felonies, including kidnapping and armed robbery, stemming from a Las Vegas incident the year before.

He was sentenced to 33 years in prison and served nine years before being released on parole in October 2017.

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