'Phil Spector' HBO Film: A Work Of ‘Fiction’ ?
Phil Spector, the HBO film about the imprisoned former music executive, was written and directed by David Mamet – who is keen to establish his film as something separate from reality.
“This is a work of fiction. It’s not ‘based on a true story,’” a subtitle of the film read during its opening credits.
Phil Spector explores what happened during the preparation for Phil Spector’s (Al Pacino) murder trial, in which he was accused of killing actress Lana Clarkson with a pistol he’d aimed into her mouth. After Spector’s original attorney leaves the case, Linda Kennedy Baden (Helen Mirren) steps up to the plate. While the hotshot lawyer is initially convinced of his guilt, as she pushes for a mistrial due to inconclusive evidence, she becomes convinced of his innocence.
Mamet had no intention of delivering a docudrama to HBO. Rather, he intentionally opted to cover parts of the story whose truth he was unable to unearth. It’s a work of fiction in that Mamet, as the writer, invented what could have been. “That’s why it’s set in trial preparation,” Pacino told the Christian Science Monitor. “We weren’t there. No one knows what happened in the trial preparation.”
"Here's the thing," Mamet explained further. "I'm a gag writer. That's how I make my living. I don't want the audience saying, 'That's the most accurate thing I ever saw in my life.' That's what we have dictionaries for."
Spector, who is currently behind bars serving a sentence of 19 years to life, has a wife on the outside who remains in his corner. She is of the belief that her husband was convicted for political reasons, not because the evidence conclusively pointed to his guilt. Rachel Spector saw the film. And while she calls Pacino’s portrayal of her incarcerated husband “cheesy,” she thinks it might have a positive effect on future appeals.
"Regardless of how I feel about the cheesy portrayal of my husband and the gun-waving, the yelling and the crazy stuff, what they did get right was the forensic evidence that could set my husband free," Rachel Spector told Rolling Stone.
"They should have never sent him away. Whether he did it or not, we'll never know," Mamet said, referencing the lack of good evidence, "But if he'd just been a regular citizen, they never would have indicted him."
It would have been an impossible task for Mamet to create a true-crime movie about events with no witnesses besides the accused, and a verdict that continues to be questioned. Instead, he opted to create a film that played enthusiastically with evidence, and fashioned it into a version of what took place behind the scenes of the trial. For those watching Phil Spector looking to get a better idea of the truth of Specter and his guilt, it seems more than likely they’ll come out as uncertain as before. Mamet doesn’t seem to have been trying, more or less, for anything else.