This Sunday (March 24) night Phil Spector, starring Al Pacino as the “Wall-of-Sound” producer and Helen Mirren as his defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden, airs on HBO. Directed by David Mamet, there is some serious buzz about this one…
Here’s what you need to know…
1. Pacino was the First Person Cast in the Movie
A notable coup for the TV movie, getting the greatest actor in the world on board, it must have added to the prestige of the project. When Pacino signed on to play Spector, Rain Man director Barry Levinson was signed on to direct with David Mamet operating solely as the writer.
Pacino’s agent John Burnham said Al was drawn to the project:
He just saw a very interesting character to play, and he likes the sensibility of David and Barry.
Burnham is also the agent for David Mamet and was at the time Barry Levinson’s agent until he left ICM agency for the UTM agency.
2. Phil Spector’s Wife is Not Happy With the Production
Yes, that’s right, Phil Spector’s wife. Despite murdering his girlfriend, Lana Clarkson, Spector still married Rachelle Spector in 2006. And she’s standing by her man, saying about the picture:
[The producers] have him as a foul-mouthed megalomaniac and they depict him as a Minotaur, like he draws people into his labyrinth and he locks them in and won’t let them out,
She also adds..
[Spector] wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Which this Spin article brilliantly points out were Norman Bates’ final words in Psycho.
HBO released a statement in light of the attack to defend their project:
Mamet approaches the story of Phil Spector as a mythological one, not as a news story, and the film is not an attempt to comment upon the trial or its outcome. HBO’s goal is to provide a creative platform for three great artists — David Mamet, Al Pacino, and Helen Mirren — to explore this complex chapter in recent cultural history. While there may be many disparate interpretations of the film’s intentions, we feel the film speaks for itself…
3. David Mamet has Interesting Opinions on Phil Spector’s Case
In speaking to The Financial Times in 2011, Mamet said:
They should never have sent him away, 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
The “it”, that Mamet is referring to, is the murder of Lana Clarkson on February 3rd, 2003 that Spector committed and was convicted of in 2009. This belief, as well as the belief that Phil Spector was a gun-nut, falls into line with David Mamet new found conservative ideals, he calls himself a “reformed liberal.”
An LA Times review of David Mamet’s book detailing his new beliefs reads:
Among his targets: liberal education, the New Deal, Al Sharpton, global warming, “Obamacare” and the bailout of the auto industry. If such a list sounds familiar, that’s because the bulk of it is made of Fox News talking points, generalities equating liberalism with socialism and framing it as venal, lazy, anti-American — a children’s crusade with no understanding of realpolitik.
Liberalism is a religion,” Mamet writes in a typically unsupported statement. “Its tenets cannot be proved, its capacity for waste and destruction demonstrated.” But as to what this means, he remains vague and imprecise….
For Mamet, the fact that “[t]he young on the Westside of Los Angeles dress themselves in jeans worn, sanded, and razored to resemble something a six-month castaway might crawl ashore in” is an expression not of the idiocy of style but of “a charade of victimization, as the ethos of the Liberal West holds that these victims are the only ones of worth.” His critique of affirmative action relies on a dismissal of race — “When,” he asks, “was the last time you heard a racist remark or saw racial discrimination at school or work?”
4. An Early New York Times Review Isn’t Good
Alessandra Stanley writing in the Times questions the reasoning behind making such a movie, one that tries to paint Spector in a positive light. Though Spector was cleared in a 2007 trial for the murder of Clarkson due a hung jury, he was found guilty in a 2009 trial. Stanley writes:
In the film he refers to her as “that idiot” and says that she “came in here and ruined my life by sticking a gun in her mouth.” “Phil Spector” isn’t about his relationship with Ms. Clarkson, 40, who was working at the House of Blues in West Hollywood and still hoping to jump-start her stalled career when she went home after midnight with the aging music man…
In “Phil Spector” the facts of the case and the characters are molded to allow viewers to doubt Mr. Spector’s guilt. But even with a Mamet screenplay and actors like Mr. Pacino and Ms. Mirren there is not much anyone can do to make the audience care.
5. Lana Clarkson was in Scarface
Other than The Godfather, Al Pacino’s most famous role is as Tony Montana in Scarface, a movie that featured Lana Clarkson, Phil Spector’s slain girlfriend. In a night club scene in the movie where presumably Tony Montana kills a bunch of people, Clarkson was an extra, Pacino didn’t know about this until he was informed of it by TV Guide:
Seriously? Wow. I never knew that. This is the first time I’m hearing it. That’s weird. Wee-ahd!