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Movies Aren’t What They Appear to Be

Paul Kalis

“Hooray for Hollywood, that screwy, ballyhooey Hollywood. Where any barmaid can be a star…”

The word Hollywood is often used as a synonym of American cinema. The city of Hollywood, the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” is the leader in the creation of motion pictures, television production, video games, and recorded music. These products from the industry can be deceptive to their audiences, engraving a false perception in viewers’ minds.

“For the longest time, I thought [James Cameron’s movie] “Titanic” was a true story,” said junior Nicole Pitone. “There was no such thing as Jack or Rose. I watched a lot of documentaries that told the real story including “Curiosity” on the Discovery Channel. Things were loosely based on real events.”

Movies such as “Gladiator” (2000), “The Patriot” (1998), “Marie Antoinette” (2006), “300” (2007), and “Apocalypto” (2006) all feature historical inaccuracies.

““Saving Private Ryan” counts as well,” said freshman Bruce Costa. “I am sure in a way war is hellish but I don’t know how graphic it is or how it scars the character. It seems like it was more for the sake of art. “Pearl Harbor” was just a glorification of the battle. The explosions were just for the sake of the eye.”

Artists have a certain creative control or “creative license” in deciding how the final product in a production will look.

“Biopics often alter real events in order to be more entertaining and match the demands of film structure and length,” said Assistant Professor of Film, Lisa Robinson. “They often condense time, change events, and consolidate secondary characters. One has to judge these films on a case by case basis as to whether the filmmakers have gone too far in their “shaping” of historical fact to create an entertaining film or to potentially fulfill a political agenda.”

HBO Films is currently working on a biopic starring Al Pacino as Phil Spector, a record producer who worked John Lennon and The Beatles, while on trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson, an actress who appeared on “Night Court,” “Three’s Company,” and “Knight Rider.” Helen Mirren also stars as Linda Kenney Baden, Spector’s attorney.

“Personally, I would like to find out how I could get this film canceled,” said Gary P. Spector, son of the music legend in an exclusive interview. “I would love to see a movie made of the trial and of my father’s life, but not by a director that just refuses to accept reality. If they had done it with the right research, I would have loved to have seen it.”

Director David Mamet spoke to the Financial Times on June 10th about his upcoming project. He does not think Spector is guilty and that there is definitely reasonable doubt, “whether he did it or not, we’ll never know but if he’d just been a regular citizen, they never would have indicted him.”

“I don’t care if people like or dislike my father,” said Spector. “What I don’t like is mistruth or blatant lies about my father. I am always going to be the one to stand up and defend him. He [Mamet] never responded to my emails when I offered to assist him with some information. Nobody ever did. From my understanding, no one ever contacted the Clarkson family. Without any contact from either side, I don’t know how there can be any facts in this movie. I got no response from HBO either. They acknowledged receiving the email but that’s all they sent. I know they got it.”

The Friends of Lana Clarkson, a group led by Hollywood publicist Edward Lozzi, whose clients include Debbie Reynolds, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Larry Hagman, first accused Mamet of being pro-Spector to the LA Times over a year ago. They are concerned that Phil Spector will be portrayed with some kind of sympathy.

“We understand the film is about a strange relationship between Spector and Linda Baden Kenny and that it is not a biopic,” said Lozzi in an exclusive interview. “But no one knows for sure. Gary Spector contacted me once by phone call and was displeased that Mamet had not contacted him for background for the script. We also are displeased that Mamet did not contact us about Lana, which we feel is another red warning light about the accuracy of this project.”

In a letter addressed to Mamet dated June 16th, The Friends of Lana Clarkson, comprising of Clarkson’s girlfriends, boyfriends, hairdressers, agents, managers, casting directors, producers, make-up artists, and a select group of media reporters, asked him to refrain from rewriting history for “creative license”. It took the group years before the trial to educate the media about their opinion of what a wonderful, loving, nurturing, and good natured positive woman Lana was.

“David Mamet, Al Pacino, and the HBO people have never responded to our courteous and official requests about the script and how Lana Clarkson will be portrayed,” said Lozzi. “The only response came from actress Helen Mirren who had the courtesy and understanding to address our concerns about our friend Lana Clarkson. She has stated to us and publicly that the film does not “trash” Lana and that we can be confident in that.”

On August 1st and 2nd, scenes for the film were shot on the south side of the State Supreme Court building in Mineola, New York. Mamet used his “creative license” and added protesters outside the courthouse holding up “Justice for the victim” and “Justice for Lana” signs.

“The scenes of poster holding screaming demonstrators out front of the court house are indeed puzzling,” said Lozzi. “There was not a demonstration like that. I was in the courtroom almost every day for the trials. An occasional kook would mouth off but mostly media and photographers yelling at Spector to look at their cameras. The Friends of Lana Clarkson were inside the court room, not outside like that.”

The Pioneer made an attempt to reach David Mamet though his official website which was updated with a link to “read an excerpt from my new book” published in June. The phone number and email address were not in service. According to HBO, the film is “David Mamet’s exploration of the client-attorney relationship between legendary music producer Phil Spector and defense attorney Linda Kenny Baden, who represented Spector during his first trial for murder.”

“The truth that I think needs to be told is basically what really happened,” said Spector. “It should not in any way imply suicide on the side of Lana Clarkson. This is what this movie seems to want focus on that as well as the pointless issue about the relationship between my father and Ms. Baden. He never had a relationship with her as far as I know. She was never the primary speaking attorney during either trial. She just sat next to my Father, speaking to him occasionally.”

When contacted by the Pioneer, HBO would only re-release the statement given months ago. “HBO has a long tradition of capturing real life events on film. We think our track record of dealing with the complex adaptation of history speaks for itself and we hope people will reserve judgment until they have seen the film.”

“Our members who have worked on HBO projects including myself, have contacts there on the inside,” said Lozzi. “Even with that, HBO has shut down the media machine on this film. No reporter has been able to get information on the script or what is in the script. HBO PR will not even talk about the project which is still unnamed. No one knows if the Spector family or spouse is in the picture.”

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