The JFK film boom illuminates how the perennial debate about the causes of President Kennedy’s assassination gets played out in 50th anniversary of JFK’s death. Yesterday’s JFK film announcement (for a cable documentary “JFK: The Smoking Gun”) sounds vaguely conspiratorial and low-budget; today’s JFK cinema news is proudly anti-conspiratorial and A-list.
National Geographic has announced that Rob Lowe will play JFK in a made-for-TV production of Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Kennedy,” which posits that President Kennedy was killed by one man alone and unaided. Lowe will star alongside actress Ginnifer Goodwin (“Mona Lisa Smile”) who will play first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
The announcement speaks to the difference between the public and media elites when it comes to JFK’s assassination. While the percentage of people believing the theory of a lone gunman has risen slightly in recent years, the public remains solidly conspiratorial in its understanding of the causes of Kennedy’s death.
While often accused of conspiratorial sensationalism, the U.S. media elites who approve JFK film projects seem more anti-conspiratorial than the general public, at least recently.
Consider the two biggest JFK film projects to go into production this year — Tom Hanks’s “Parkland‘ and O’Reilly’s “Killing Kennedy.” Both are explicitly anti-conspiratorial. Both not only find drama in the President’s death but both also seek to persuade viewers that the lone gun man theory is a fact.
National Geographic describes the O’Reilly vehicle as a “documented drama,” a necessary caveat given O’Reilly’s controversial reputation for insults and misstatements. His veracity on the JFK story is also open to question. At one point in “Killing Kennedy.” O’Reilly brags of chasing a big JFK story in south Florida in 1977 when in fact he was working the phones in his office in Dallas.
The biggest rumored JFK film project with a conspiratorial perspective is Leonardo di Caprio’s “Legacy of Secrecy,” which is not yet in production. DiCaprio’s father was in Cannes last week talking up the film, which is based on Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann’s book. This movie is based on Waldron’s somewhat convoluted “Mafia done it” theory. Slated for director is David O. Russell, director of “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Given the reality of major motion picture production, it seems unlikely DiCaprio’s film will be in theaters in November. The JFK anti-conspiracy theorists are have the better year in Hollywood.
National Geographic assures the public it will be a “factual drama,” a necessary caveat with O’Reilly who fibbed about his JFK reporting in “Killing Kennedy”