‘Parkland’s’ Peter Landesman talks about tackling JFK’s assassination

Peter Landesman

Peter Landesman, journalist turned director, tackles the JFK story

I’ve criticized Tom Hanks’s upcoming JFK film, “Parkland,” for what I expect will be its simplistic treatment of the causes of the assassination. (Examples here and here.)

Now its time to let the film’s director, former journalist Peter Landesman, give his side of the story. He spoke with the Hollywood Reporter on Friday.

Q. The assassination story has been revisited many times, from many different perspectives. What inspired you to make this movie?

Landesman: “I was a war correspondent and journalist for a long time, and I was very near the towers on 9/11 and very shortly after in Afghanistan. I love writing in compressed time periods, because the act of survival in the midst of panic and fear, that’s where true heroism comes. If you have a uniform and you’re expected to do things, it’s a sort of incremental heroism. But when you’re faced with life or death and survival, it’s different. In Parkland, these people are in a car accident. And for the entire length of the movie, the car is spinning, ready to crash into a wall, and it’s ‘What do I do?”

“You’re the brother of the devil. You’re the man who accidentally shot the only evidence of the murder. You’re the 26-year-old rookie doctor and suddenly you’re covered in the president’s blood. I found those dramas towering over this endless [conspiracy] dialogue over something you’ll never get close to proving. This film kind of refuses to have that dialogue. We can talk about that all day. We can talk about it as we talk about the existence of God — we’ll talk in a circle and end up where we began. The film just refuses to do that; its focus is elsewhere. And it’s the 50th anniversary [of Kennedy’s assassination in November], and I thought it was time to have this.”

Read the entire interview with Landesman here.

The film starring Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, Zac Efron, and Marcia Gay Harden opens on October 4. Whatever you think of the film, the trailer shows it has superb production values.




  1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde says:

    ” this endless [conspiracy] dialogue over something you’ll never get close to proving.”

    –what is that old adage again, “never say never”?

    We may never prove absolutely what all transpired the day of the assassination, but the available evidence is about to take a giant leap forward. Perhaps this evidence will open doors previously unavailable to JFK

  2. This project reduces one of the biggest political events in American history into an episode of sentimentality. That makes for bad art and assures that it will be a movie that will end up being forgotten soon after it shows up in the theater, where even there it may fail at the box office as popcorn entertainment.

    Imagine if someone decided to do a movie based on the events in Costa Garva’s movie Z about the assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis and said, I don’t want to talk about something difficult like that so I’m going to focus on the drunk that saw the killing and had a tough time about it, then I can bring the emotions into it all! This isn’t to demean the individual experiences of the people in Dallas that day, but this is an approach of cowardice and the use of sentimentality to escape reality.

    • Emmett says:

      Did you see the film already, or are you just having a reaction (emotional) to a description of it? I’ll grant you that the director seems to be playing up the ER “drama” over the larger historical drama but I am certainly curious to see the events at Parkland dramatized. I have been reading about them for so long I could probably do my own film.

      I’m just saying, save such critiques until you have actually seen the evidence…..er, I mean until you have seen the film.

  3. leslie sharp says:

    Peter Landesman: “To me, you can get spiritually closer to the truth of a thing if you aren’t constrained by confirmable fact. If you had to fact-check a movie, name me a single movie that would survive that process like a magazine article. I think you can get truer to the spirit of a story through films that are some kind of combination of inspiration and truth. That’s where great storytelling is.”

    Great storytelling is admirable, but this is walking a tight rope. I agree with Landesman that the spirit and soul behind the assassination is as significant as is practical, hard cold data; however, one can easily slip off that rope, and the well-intentioned result may be a misleading, manipulated presentation of events without regard for the consequences. Capturing the spirit without regard to relative facts is as deleterious to the truth as is obfuscation those facts because it appeals to the emotion; study of recent history informs us where that can lead. Some might construe the failure to include critical evidence as a fraud against the court, in this case the court of public opinion. Of course it was his choice, but neither Landesman nor Hanks, Goetzman et al should be surprised by criticism or accusations. Not having seen the film, I take on good faith his insistence that “Parkland” is a fairly accurate portrayal of certain scenes relating to the assassination, but is that good enough this year, given their resources and given the plethora of facts available? On second thought, this sounds like a lazy effort designed for a politically immature audience.

  4. larry wheels says:

    the “endless conspiracy dialogue” has been as a reaction by brave and tireless researches all the way back to Bertrand Russell, Mark Lane, Jim Garrison, Harold Weisburg, Dr. Cycil Wecht, snd many others over 50 years. The endless dialogue he mocks is a badge of honor to me. If not for the passion of conspiracy researchers the notion that history is written by the victors would simply be written in stone. The truth does not belong to the J. Edgar Hoovers, LBJs ,and his band of political cronies. The truth belongs to the facts as they presented themselves as Dr. Crenshaw in the Parkland emergency room saw with his own eyes and his hands trying to save JFK’s life. He wrote a book about his experience and and just his testimony in a court of law would’ve destroyed the official lone nut pro castro version.

  5. Stephen Roberson says:

    How can you be critical of a movie you admittedly haven’t seen and expect to retain any credibility?

    • larrywheels says:

      I was not reacting to the movie, but to the attempt to smear and silence those taking up the challenge to research and do justice to their own history. just because a group of powerful cronified insiders have stamped an “official” seal on lbj and j. edgar hoover’s investigation does not make it “truth”. I saw the movie and it focus is on Zapruder, the parkland doctors and the fbi,and secret servicemen in dallas.
      in the case of zapruder and the doctors they support the conspiracy version, they were actual witnesses to history. as for the fbi and secret service- they did the “go along to get along” shuffle.

  6. Stephanie Lesher says:

    I just watched the DVD “Dark Legacy” which blew my mind! I always believed there was a conspiracy. Especially when the security measures usually in place for a president’s visit were called off that day. Then they tried to make us believe JFK was shot in the back of the head when we could all see that it was the right front of his forehead. Then they took his body away from the hospital where the doctors had seen the wounds and were capable of doing an autopsy – took the body to a doctor in DC who had never done an autopsy after covering the bullet hole with a crude surgery. Then the doctor burned his notes! It goes on and on. Bottom line – the CIA was definitely behind it. After watching “Dark Legacy”, it would be a total waste of time to watch a Hollywood version, even if I believed that the conclusion in “Dark Legacy” is off the mark.

    • larrywheels says:

      good points. that burning the “notes” by the autopsy doctor is telling. it seems burning up the evidence was a thing they had in common with the fbi in dallas honcho ordering fbi agent hosty to burn the note they received from Oswald. they didn’t have shredders in those days.

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