Griffin Dunne Says Sister Dominique’s Murder Brought His Family Together, as He Recalls the “Poltergeist ”Star He ‘Adored’ (Exclusive)

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The actor, director and producer reflects on Dominique’s 1982 death in his new memoir ‘The Friday Afternoon Club’

<p>Courtesy of Griffin Dunne</p> Griffin Dunne (right) with brother Alex and sister Dominique in 1982

Courtesy of Griffin Dunne

Griffin Dunne (right) with brother Alex and sister Dominique in 1982

Griffin Dunne doesn’t hesitate to say what he thinks of first when his younger sister, the late actress Dominique Dunne, is mentioned.

“A smile on my face,” the After Hours star tells PEOPLE for this week’s issue, ahead of the publication of his new book The Friday Afternoon Club: A Family Memoir.

Out June 11 from Penguin Press, The Friday Afternoon Club sees the acclaimed actor, director and producer, 68, looking back on his star-studded childhood and career. While detailing wild, one-of-a-kind, stories — Sean Connery saved him from drowning when he was 8, and he attended one of his aunt Joan Didion’s parties to try and meet Janis Joplin, to name a few — Dunne also reflects on Dominique’s tragic murder in 1982, when she was strangled and killed by an ex-boyfriend when she was 22.

<p>Penguin Random House</p> 'The Friday Afternoon Club: A Family Memoir' by Griffin Dunne

Penguin Random House

'The Friday Afternoon Club: A Family Memoir' by Griffin Dunne

The results of the trial, in which Dominique’s killer was given a sentence of voluntary manslaughter, as well as misdemeanor assault for an earlier choking attack on Dominique, resulted in public outrage, as many felt there should have been a harsher sentence.

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Dunne, who agrees that his family, including father Dominick, mother Ellen and younger brother Alex, became closer throughout the trial, also says that the results pushed his family toward new paths of their own.

Related: 'This Is Us' : Griffin Dunne on Nicky 'Finding Love' with His Future Wife — 'There's No Age Limit'

“I think we were very worried how the trial and the disastrous outcome of the verdict would affect my mother's health,” Dunne says. “It actually had just the opposite [effect] because she would not let this bring her down.” Ellen and activist Marcella Leach, whose daughter Marsalee Nichols was murdered in 1983, co-founded the non-profit organization now known as Justice for Homicide Victims.

<p>MGM/Entertainment Pictures/Alamy</p> Dominique Dunne (far right) in 1982's 'Poltergeist'

MGM/Entertainment Pictures/Alamy

Dominique Dunne (far right) in 1982's 'Poltergeist'

The trial also proved to be monumental for Dominick, who was originally a Hollywood producer known for films such as 1970’s The Boys in the Band and 1971’s The Panic in Needle Park. He pivoted to journalism after writing an in-depth account of Dominique’s murder trial for Vanity Fair, based on diaries he kept throughout the tiral.

“It's a document that's like a handbook for what families should prepare for,” Dunne says of the article. “And it's something that is so powerful that I [give it to] people who I expect will be in my life when I first meet them … so that they would understand something about me.”

Related: Griffin Dunne Mourns the Death of His Aunt Joan Didion, Remembers 'Her Self-Respect, Certain Toughness'

Dominick, who was also a novelist, would go on to cover several high-profile cases throughout his second career. He was one of two reporters allowed full access to the O.J. Simpson trials in 1995, and also covered the trials of the Menendez Brothers in 1993 and Phil Spector in 2007. As a journalist, however, Dominick always kept a certain angle in mind.

<p>THOMAS BOHLEN/STARFACE/HEADPRESS/REDUX</p> Griffin Dunne

THOMAS BOHLEN/STARFACE/HEADPRESS/REDUX

Griffin Dunne

“If he wrote about Phil Spector, he talked about Lana Clarkson and not as a third-rate actress, as the media continue to describe her,” Dunne says. “Or during O.J., he sat with the Browns and Nicole's family. He was a journalist, but not a terribly unbiased one. He always looked at it from the rights of the victim.”

Related: 'This Is Us'' Griffin Dunne Teases Nicky's 'Very Emotional' Thanksgiving Reunion: He 'Gets Closure'

Despite the tragedy that permeates its pages, Dunne says that writing The Friday Afternoon Club, which is as humorous as it is heartbreaking, allowed him to balance the dark with the light, and to reflect on Dominique’s life as only a sibling could.

“I loved going back to my memories of her as a little girl that Alex and I adored,” he says. “She seemed to know who she was from the age of four or five and had such confidence, far more than her brothers. She would boss us around and we would do everything we could to please her.”

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The Friday Afternoon Club: A Family Memoir
is on sale on June 11 and is now available for preorder, wherever books are sold. 

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