Al Pacino to play Phil Spector in new film
LOS ANGELES — American actor Al Pacino and David Mamaet, writer behind “Glengarry Glen Ross,” have teamed up with HBO to explore legendary music producer Phil Spector’s relationship with the criminal defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden, the woman who defended him against charges of killing actress Lana Clarkson.
The film, “Phil Spector,” written and directed by Mamet, stars Al Pacino as the music producer and Helen Mirren as his attorney.
When David Mamet’s agent urged him to watch a documentary about Phil Spector, the playwright said he felt he already knew enough about the eccentric producer who sported wild hair and was found guilty of murder.
“You start out saying this guy’s a freak,” Mamet told reporters at a Television Critics Association meeting on Friday.
Learning more about Phil Spector, “you start to think, how could I be so prejudiced? The guy sounds brilliant.” “Then you say, maybe he’s not guilty,” Mamet said.
In the film that debuts March 24 on Time Warner Inc-owned HBO, Helen Mirren plays Linda Kenney Baden, who defended Phil Spector in his first murder trial that ended in a mistrial with jurors deadlocked. He was convicted in a second trial in 2009 and is serving a sentence of 19 years to life.
Phil Spector, now 73, revolutionized pop music in the 1960s with his layered “Wall of Sound” production techniques, working with the Beatles, the Ronettes, Cher and Leonard Cohen at the height of his fame. But for years before the trial, he had lived as a virtual recluse in a mock castle in suburban Los Angeles.
“Phil Spector” tells how Linda Baden became intrigued by the producer and the challenges of defending him. She considers how to raise reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury while the defense team wrestles with whether Phil Spector should take the stand.
As his attorneys consider that Phil Spector might hurt his own cause, Spector reminds them of his accomplishments. In one scene, he tells Linda Baden: “The first time you got felt up, guess what? You were listening to one of my songs.”
The real-life Baden told reporters on Friday that, as Phil Spector’s attorney, she couldn’t tell David Mamet about any conversations with her client. Instead, they were left to the playwright’s imagination.
Linda Baden said she felt the forensic evidence against Phil Spector did not prove he killed Clarkson, who was found shot to death in the foyer of his home hours after the pair met in a nightclub. he denied murdering Clarkson but did not testify at either trial.
Al Pacino said he didn’t try to perfectly mimic the real-life music producer or meet with him, though he did watch video footage of his statements around the time of the murder trial.
“I would sit for hours just looking at Phil talking about things,” said Al Pacino, speaking via satellite from New York.
Helen Mirren said on Friday her biggest challenge was finding the right tone to play a character in the unconventional world that Phil Spector seemed to inhabit.
“It’s like a strange dream you are having,” Helen Mirren said. “The nature of Phil Spector and the life that he lived encouraged that. He seemed to live in a permanent dream.”