Friday, October 4, 2013
Video: Parkland director talks about the “emotional DNA” of the film
Peter Landesman said the popular conspiracy theories distract Americans from the meaning of Kennedy's assassination.
On Friday, Dallas Morning News photographer David Guzman and I took a short, surreal walk from the paper’s Young Street HQ to Dealey Plaza. Downtown’s streets were filled with floats prepping for the noon kick-off of the State Fair of Texas opening day parade — Big Tex and fried butter, separated by the Four Horseman of Medieval Times’ Apocalypse. Dallas police officers blocked off streets; TV news helicopters hovered overhead. And somewhere, a marching band was playing “Get Lucky.”
At Dealey Plaza, Robert Groden was at his usual perch peddling his conspiracy theorist wares, surely to the chagrin of Sixth Floor Museum officials who’ve been trying to run him off since long before the calendar turned to “JFK50.” Tourists, speaking German and Japanese, thumbed through DVDs and magazines kept in containers perched above grisly autopsy photos of the man gunned down a few feet away.
Peter Landesman found the whole scene tacky, tasteless. He’d met us in Dealey Plaza to talk about his movie — Parkland, his first as writer and director — but couldn’t wait to leave.
He’d been here not long ago: Earlier this year he brought Paul Giamatti and Billy Bob Thornton to Dealey Plaza to film a handful of short scenes for Parkland, which tells a small part of Dallas’ story on November 22, 1963. They were dressed as other men — Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder, the world’s most famous amateur filmmaker, and Thornton as Agent Forrest Sorrels of the Secret Service’s Dallas office. Giamatti, says the filmmaker in the video above, had a small breakdown in the moments before the camera rolled. The rest of the film was shot in Austin.
Landesman was appalled by the yellow “Grassy Knoll” sign strew across the lawn, by the gory photos of Kennedy’s head being used to sell product, by the people running into Elm Street to have their photos taken on the “X” that marks the spot where Kennedy was shot to death. So we did our interview, and he retreated as hastily as he could — first to the offices of Sixth Floor Museum curator Gary Mack, then to his remaining interviews. “We gotta get outta here,” he said after posing for a few photos.
But not, of course, before we spoke about his movie — a modest, 90-minute story about the death of a president and the city in which he was murdered. As Chris Vognar wrote in his Sunday story about Parkland, “This literal-minded account of the assassination sticks to the basics experienced by history’s supporting players,” among them Marguerite Oswald (Jacki Weaver), FBI agent James Hosty (Ron Livingston) Parkland doc Jim Carrico (Zac Efron), and Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale), about whom there should be a separate film one day.
“What would it be like to be these people?” producer Nigel Sinclair asked Chris. “Not the people pulling the levers of power and going to Washington, but all the other people.”
In the video above, Landesman attempts to answer that question.
Parkland opens Friday.
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