‘Phil Spector’: Emmy Nominee Mamet Now Convinced of Music Legend’s Innocence

phil spector HBO Emmy Writer Director

Answer to script's riddle shocked even Its scribe

David Mamet, nominated for both writing and directing “Phil Spector” for HBO, initially resisted examining the wacky recording magnate to be played by Al Pacino.

“I went kicking and screaming, the guy’s a thug, he’s a lowlife, da da da.” His change of mind about the man’s fascination parallels that of consulting attorney Linda Kenney Baden (Helen Mirren), whose reflex certainty of her man’s guilt slowly gives way to passionate belief in his innocence.

Sophisticated themes of rooted-out prejudice and ideology raise the pic out of the realm of the courtroom procedural, though Mamet insists his topic was never the trial: “The movie is about what might have happened backstage.”

Mamet and Baden shared a commitment not to vilify victim Lana Clarkson, which in turn helped him unlock his story’s central riddle. “She clearly didn’t kill herself, and (Baden) can’t say he killed her because she’s his attorney. So what if it was an accident?” Fun was had with the lawyer’s real-life obstacle, a ravaging case of pneumonia. What do you do, the film asks, when everything’s on the line and you feel like hell?

Mamet professes enjoying it all, intimate two-handed confrontations and big crowd scenes. “You take the crock of shit the writer has handed you,” he notes wryly, “and try to make the best movie you can.”

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  1. rh says:

    Phil Spector had many guns. They were all registered. The gun that killed Lana Clarkson was UNregistered. Funny coincidence. Was it her gun? Mr Smart says Phil Spector had a long history of waving guns around. Maybe true but when was the last time? Decades earlier? And PS – the judge wasnt a “she” for those who are paying attention. I followed every detail of the case and there was nothing that might suggest the judge limited any evidence because it might be prejudicial to Phil Spector’s defense.

    • LS says:

      Correcting a factual inaccuracy — only two of the eleven firearms in Phil Spector’s home were registered to him. The majority of his weapons did not even have complete sales documentation (many of the transactions likely predated current applicable laws). The identities and available purchase histories of all eleven are documented in the biography by Mick Brown, pp. 425-6 in the 2008 edition.

    • Joe Smart says:

      The judge allowed the prosecution to call as witnesses four women who said Phil Spector got drunk and waived guns in their faces. The prosecution found more than four women who made that claim but the judge limited testimony to four. The judge would not let the prosecution mention Phil Spector’s previous gun-related convictions in 1972 or 1975 or (as newspaper accounts at the time put it) other alleged incidents of violence involving guns. These involve both waiving guns in the faces of people he produced or wanted to produce (John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Joey Ramone, Ronnie Spector and Debbie Harry of Blondie, whose story is remarkably similar to what happened to Lana Clarkson except that she managed to leave Spector’s mansion before being shot in the face) and women Spector picked up or was friends with that he ended up terrorizing at gunpoint. It defies common sense given Phil Spector’s history that Lana Clarkson killed herself in Phl Spector’s house. .

  2. Joe Smart says:

    Phil Spector has a long and well-documented history of waving guns in peoples faces going back to at least the 1970’s. Supposedly he pointed guns at John Lennon, Leonard Cohen and Joey Ramone in the studio when he produced them, which is probably why his career as a music producer went down the toilet. Then there’s the numerous women he did the same thing to–the judge would only let one or two testify because she thought more than that would be too prejudicial to Spector’s defense. If you have a habit of waiving guns in peoples faces for forty years it’s inevitable at some point that the gun is actually going to go off. I’ve read that David Mamet thinks Phil Spector was railroaded because of his celebrity but I’m not sure what his theory is about what actually happened. This story seems to imply that he thinks Spector accidentally shot the actress in the face–but isn’t that what the prosecutor’s theory was as well? Nobody ever said it was premeditated murder. David Mamet must have a peculiar definition of innocent.

    • Frank W says:

      The movie describes the scenario as she put the gun in her mouth and when he shouted “Don’t” she was startled and the act of pulling it out caused the gun to go off. The movie depicts a test being done with a live person with a rubber gun hooked to a monitor that showed the trigger was pulled. They also depict tests done that showed if he was close to her as the prosecution suggests, he would have had more blood on him than he did.

      Definitely though, she’d be alive if he hadn’t brought out the gun.

      • Joe Smart says:

        I didn’t see the movie. So basically Mamet bought Spector’s story that she shot herself with his gun?

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