The Movie That’s Dividing Hollywood

Mister D: If David Mamet thought Bette was faking her injury, believe me, he would have vilified her in the press like he did with Jeremy Piven a couple of years ago. Google it! Mr. Mamet is not afraid to speak his mind….whether right or wrong.

Express Yourself
Phil Spector was jailed for killing Lana Clarkson
Thursday August 4,2011
By Peter Sheridan

Helen Mirren hardly looked like a woman with a gun held to her head this week.

She was all smiles as she arrived on the set of her latest movie in a long blonde wig and knee-length black business dress with an iced drink in hand to fend off the new York heat.

Yet the Oscar-winning star of The Queen, Gosford Park and The Madness Of King George was defying outraged critics and ignoring threats by even turning up for work.

Protesters have warned of the “con- sequences” Dame Helen, 66, will suffer for appearing in the movie about music producer Phil Spector and his murder of actress Lana Clarkson.

The Friends Of Lana Clarkson group, reportedly comprising “influential” Hollywood insiders, has threatened to derail Mirren with a campaign to ensure that she and the movie never win a single nomination during the long awards season.

The group claims the film seeks to whitewash the reputation of the producer it condemns as a “loathsome, lying, gun-abusing convicted murderer”.

The feud has erupted as the Prime Suspect star takes on the role of Linda Kenney Baden, a lawyer defending Spector against murder charges and convinced of his innocence.

Spector, 71, played in the movie by Academy Award winner Al Pacino, created the Wall Of Sound in the Sixties and worked with The Beatles, The Ronettes and Tina Turner.

However in 2009 he was convicted of shooting Clarkson, 40, at his mountain top castle home in Alhambra, east los Angeles, and was sentenced to life in prison.

He is not eligible for parole until 2028 when he will be 88. Despite the guilty verdict, protesters fear that the movie will claim that Spector was innocent and Clarkson may have shot herself in the face with his gun because she was depressed by a series of career setbacks ”“ as alleged during the trial by Spector’s defence.

“I don’t think he’s guilty,” says the biopic’s screenwriter David Mamet. “i definitely think there is reasonable
doubt. 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 would never have indicted him.”

Hollywood publicist Edward Lozzi, a long-time friend of Clarkson, who is leading the campaign against the film, wrote to Mamet saying: “Will you portray her as the loving, beautiful actress and comedian she was or will you go the low road as did Team Spector (a reference to the producer’s squad of lawyers) portraying her as a casting couch dope-whore hellbent on picking up Spector for kicks then blowing her brains out in his back doorway, depressed about turning 40?”

Protests began last month when the film began shooting with Bette Midler playing Baden and critics claimed victory
when she dropped out after only three days.

Midler insists she withdrew because of a herniated disc in her spine, saying: “The pain i am in has made my participation impossible.”

But Lozzi says: “Maybe her back does hurt but i think what persuaded her to quit was she didn’t want to hurt her image.”

When Mirren took Midler’s place she became a target for Clarkson’s defenders. “What we hope is that when she reads this script and sees Lana is being trashed she will speak up and say, ”˜This is not right,’” says Lozzi. “We ask her to examine her conscience.”

The Friends Of Lana Clarkson sent a letter to Dame Helen urging her to “do the right thing” and threatening that “there will be consequences” if she went ahead with filming. They warned: “We will influence Academy members” when awards are handed out. But this week Mirren gave her response as she strode on to the new York set where she is filming with Pacino, who was wearing a fright wig of dark hair to reflect Spector’s look.

Lozzi, whose clients have included Jon Voight, Larry Hagman, Debbie Reynolds and Zsa Zsa Gabor, recalls meeting Clarkson at a party in 1982: “Pushing 6ft without heels … she was so good looking that it hurt,” he says.

Clarkson had just filmed her movie debut opposite Sean Penn and would go on to take small roles in such TV series as Happy Days, chips, and Fantasy island.

“She had a career but it was still cheque to cheque, audition after audition and rejections and castings that became an emotional, stomach- churning rollercoaster ride,” says lozzi, who became her publicist and dated her for a while. “i don’t know how she stayed in the game 25 years.”

BETWEEN acting jobs Clarkson was working as a hostess at Hollywood’s House Of Blues nightclub in February 2003 when she met Spector, a fading star known for his erratic behaviour and reclusive lifestyle.

He invited her to party with him after work and took her by limousine to his home. The chauffeur waited outside the mansion for about an hour then heard a gunshot and saw Spector stagger through the door carrying a gun, saying: “i think i just shot her.”

But in court Spector claimed that Clarkson had accidentally killed herself after she “kissed the gun” and it went off.

His lawyers painted her as a depressed, failed actress flirting with suicide ”“ a horrific character assassination, according to her friends.

After a mistrial in 2007 a second jury in 2009 found him guilty of murder. Yet The Friends Of Lana Clarkson fear that the new movie aims to “retry” Spector in the court of public opinion and to find him not guilty.

lozzi says: “Lana did not commit suicide with a stranger in a strange house with a strange gun. A beautiful woman who cared more for others than herself died because she only wanted to leave the house she was in.”

The protests have not discouraged Dame Helen and her spokesman says: “She’s in the movie. She’s not dropping out. That’s all she’s saying.”

The producers insist that the project will continue, with a spokes- person saying: “HBO has a long tradition of capturing real-life events on film. We think our track record of dealing with a complex adaptation of history speaks for itself and we hope people will reserve judgment until they have seen the film.”

But the top cast and production team make matters only more troubling for The Friends Of Lana Clarkson, as the film’s message of the alleged injustice done to Spector will reach a wider audience.

Says lozzi: “You’ve got the best people in Hollywood. You’ve got Oscar winners. it’s going to be a great movie ”“ which makes it worse.”

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