Parkland – The Stars Speak Out
By Anne Brodie Oct 1, 2013, 17:07 GMT
Memories of one of the most awful days in American history will be stirred by Peter Landesman’s film Parkland. The gripping fact-based drama looks at the events in the days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas Texas.
Paul Giamatti plays Abe Zapruder a local garment factory owner who happened to film the kill shot as Kennedy’s cortege drove by. It looks at the doctors in the room (Zac Efron and Colin Hanks) who worked on the grievously injured Kennedy, and assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother (Jacki Weaver) whose denial of her son’s guilt never wavered. We spoke with Efron, Giamatti, Weaver, Hanks and Landesman in Toronto.
PAUL GIAMATTI stars as “Abraham Zapruder,” A private citizen who unwittingly shot arguably the most famous 26 seconds of film in history, in PARKLAND : Claire Folger ©2013 Exclusive Media Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Peter Landesman on getting the real story: Until this film the Zapruders have been secretive, quiet and living in the dark. Many changed their names. It’s complicated. I don’t understand the psychological impact. It’s a case of kill the like him being blamed because the was another weapon. And then forcing us, obsessively addicted to images of violence, forcing us to have this image of Kennedy’s death. I reached out and said we really wanted to tell their real inside story.
We wanted to tell his inner story, his story. The thing that helped was when Paul agreed to do and we presented one of the greatest actors of our generation. He looked like him once we shaved his head, this cast as artists have incredible integrity, every one of them came with filmography of important roles and work and the family said “We’re in” and they were extremely helpful. We had no agenda but to tell the honest emotional truth, not a truth or speculative truth or a speculative design.
It feels like a patriotic act. It sounds high falutin' but it isn’t. It’s important. The thing we wanted to do was really to tell an emotional truth and an exciting story. We wanted to get down to what was real and Shakespearean about it.
Paul Giamatti on inhabiting Zapruder: I didn’t know hang about Zapruder but there was footage of him. This guy witnessed it and they shoved him on camera and they were half ignoring him and you see him talking. I was struck by how heavy his Jewish New York accent was and that meant a lot to me. I thought “This is a man who lived in Dallas and he’s an outsider.”
Peter wrote this wonderful thing about how he came to the country. A guy coming and experiencing it and reveres the president and the drama of that. And that was something that was interesting for my character, this sense of completely free floating guilt.
“Why did I do this? Why am I responsible for this horrible thing that the children are going to have to look at, watching the president get his head blown off for all time? I’ve done something awful.”
Efron on learning Kennedy’s legacy: This was interesting and hugely for me. This was a day that you can’t hear about today without it being shrouded in mystery confusion and controversy. The simple truth that the film explores, I didn’t know what went on and this was a very specific day.
It’s like the way 9/11 was for me. I remember that day and the specifics of that day. This one I didn’t know much about and it was a wonderful way to learn. It was fantastically eye opening for me. And there was this fascinating responsibility of playing this young resident who suddenly has the most important man in the world thrust in front of him with fatal injuries and how he’s called to action in a big way.
Those moments were fun to play – you can’t ask for more. It was exciting and scary as they were in real life.
(L-R) COLIN HANKS as "Dr. Malcolm Perry" and ZAC EFRON as "Dr. Charles “Jim” Carrico" star in PARKLAND Photo: Claire Folger ©2013 Exclusive Media Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Weaver as Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother: As far as my character goes I am lucky enough to have some access to some videotapes of Lee Harvey Oswald which was really valuable and fascinating. There’s a fantastic book by Jean Stafford “A Mother in History” and she spent three days with Marguerite. So along with what my character says is exactly what she did say, tormented women with a narcissistic bent.
I can assure you that nothing that my character does in this film is exaggerated with regard to the actual woman. Regarding her son, that’s a huge study for a clinical psychologist. I do think it’s not all nurture, a lot of it is nature. How many people do we know who have one vile kid and one gorgeous kid? I think a lot of it is accidental.
But I do think it’s a multitude of effects the way people turn out. But there is no doubt the way their mother was had a huge effect on the extremely odd son and yet, Robert was a different kettle of fish altogether. Robert Oswald stayed pout, he didn’t change his name. And Lee Harvey Oswald’s daughters are still saying he was framed and he’s innocent.
Hanks on the emergency room scenes: As the doctors we had a little bit of the luxury because we were focused on our objectives as actors, we were focused on doctors trying to save lives. You’re specific in your range but I wasn’t very interested in what happened afterwards. I don’t think the films about that; it’s about the moment the characters have within this time frame.
My character was mentioned a lot and his action reverberated for decades. But I couldn’t focus on that, just the most realistic thing we could do. Being doctors trying to save two people’s lives.
Landesman on authenticity: Without a doubt you what to be as honest and true to history as you can but you want to shed light on aspects people aren’t familiar with. If that was the goal of the film to tell the stories of people on the outer rims of what happened everyone knows the main characters but not the supporting ones, the stuff they went through in those incredible days that were forced upon them.
JACKI WEAVER as "Marguerite Oswald" stars in PARKLAND Photo: Claire Folger ©2013 Exclusive Media Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved