Half a century after President John F. Kennedy was shot, the new movie "Parkland" relives history from the perspective of those who were most intimately connected to the president’s assassination in the chaotic hours and days that followed that fateful motorcade ride through downtown Dallas.
"Parkland" writer and director Peter Landesman told “Top Line” that the film puts the story’s most prominent characters – the president and the first lady – in the periphery of the storyline to focus instead on the less-known and real-life “Shakespearean dramas” that were unfolding all around.
“For 50 years we've seen this story through the narrative of the murder mystery,” Landesman said. “And we never really thought about those to whom it really happened, who survived the weekend.”
Though the film avoids dealing with the many conspiracy theories that surround the Kennedy assassination, it does raise the question of whether Lee Harvey Oswald could have been stopped. FBI agent Jim Hosty, who had been tracking Oswald prior to the assassination, is one of the film’s main characters.
“Jim Hosty was watching Oswald because he was this sort of strange, knuckleheaded, sort of sociopath who … was going to do something like this at some point in order to bolster himself,” Landesman said. “Could he have stopped Oswald? No, no one could have stopped Oswald that day, except for maybe his wife.”
At certain points during the filming of the movie, Landesman said, the experience of reenacting history became so real to the actors involved that it was as if “it was actually happening in front of us.”
Landesman recalled that Paul Giamatti, who plays the role of Abraham Zapruder in the movie, was deeply affected in the moments prior to filming the scene where Zapruder shot what would become the only film to capture the assassination.
“He was walking around, it was a strange gloomy day, and he didn't know he was on a live mic,” Landesman said. “And he was walking around kind of having a little bit of a nervous breakdown, like, ‘I can't believe I am doing this, I can't do this, where am I?’ He’d never been at Dealey Plaza before. He was standing where Zapruder stood. It was not like reenacting history; it was like reliving history for him.”
For more of the interview with Landesman, including what he says the experience of filming the operating room scene during which Kennedy dies was like, check out this episode of “Top Line."
ABC’s Michael Conte, Freda Kahen-Kashi, Hank Disselkamp, and Bob Bramson contributed to this episode.