Dr. Earl Rose was actually on solid legal ground when he attempted to have Kennedy's body autopsied in Dallas, instead of the Secret Service removing the body. At the time of Kennedy's death, there was no federal jurisdiction over the assassination of a president. If Rose had prevailed, the chain of evidence would have been preserved. Since the Secret Service forcibly removed the casket, what happened to Kennedy's body between the time it left Parkland and arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital has been the source of great speculation, and led to numerous conspiracy theories.
The 1964 Cadillac hearse that transported John F. Kennedy's body from the hospital to Love Field is almost exactly the same as the original one, down to the license plates (WC609). The original sold at the Barrett-Jackson auction for $160,000.
The movie was based on Vincent Bugliosi's book "Four Days in November: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy". That book, as noted in the credits, was an excerpt from his book "Reclaiming History", in which he takes a prosecutorial approach to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald carried out the assassination alone, and systematically debunk conspiracy theories. He began the book after serving as the "prosecutor" in the British documentary On Trial: Lee Harvey Oswald (1986), which conducted a jury "trial" of Oswald. Producers Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, and Bill Paxton originally bought the rights to the book intending to produce it as a big-budget HBO miniseries. This film is a compromise of the project they had in mind.
Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) films while standing on a column, with his secretary Marilyn Sitzman (Elizabeth Tulloch) standing near him. In real life, Zapruder suffered from vertigo, and his secretary stood with him atop the column to help him with balance.
Parkland (2013) recounts the chaotic events that occurred in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Parkland (2013) is the ferocious, heart-stopping and powerful untold true story of the people behind the scenes of one of the most scrutinized events in history.
Parkland (2013) weaves together the perspectives of a handful of ordinary individuals suddenly thrust into extraordinary circumstances: the young doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital; Dallas' chief of the Secret Service; an unwitting cameraman who captured what became the most watched and examined film in history; the FBI agents who nearly had the gunman within their grasp; the brother of Lee Harvey Oswald, left to deal with his shattered family; and John F. Kennedy's security team, witnesses to both the president's death and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson's rise to power over a nation whose innocence was forever altered.
The title of the long version of the film's source 2008 book "Four Days in November" by Vincent Bugliosi is 'Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy" with it being first published the previous year in 2007.
An extraordinary new retelling of the assassination of American President John F. Kennedy, Parkland (2013) took a closer look at one of the 20th century's most examined events in a unique new light. The film takes a question that defined a generation of Americans - "Where were you when John F. Kennedy was assassinated?" - and answers it through the eyes of a group of ordinary citizens who were called upon to do the unthinkable.
The idea for the film began in a conversation between actor, director and producer Tom Hanks, producer Gary Goetzman, and actor Bill Paxton. Goetzman said: "We were at a baseball game and the Kennedy [John F. Kennedy] assassination came up. Bill is fascinated by all of the theories about it. He is from Fort Worth and remembers seeing Kennedy speak there on the day of the assassination." Sometime later, Paxton visited the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, USA which is dedicated to the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. Watching a film loop of the president's visit to Texas, he was shocked to recognize himself in the background, perched on his father's shoulders. When he stopped in an airport bookstore later the same day and found a copy of Vincent Bugliosi's book, "Four Days in November" (2008), he became determined to find a way to tell the familiar story from a particularly personal point of view. He shared the book with Hanks and Goetzman, who began to see it as a perfect project for Playtone, which had produced a number of award-winning mini-series for HBO based on pivotal moments in American history, including John Adams (2008), The Pacific (2010), and Band of Brothers (2001).
Investigative journalist Peter Landesman, an award-winning writer, was already at work on a feature script for Playtone about the Watergate scandal and the mysterious whistle-blower known as Deep Throat. Approaching him to develop a script inspired by Vincent Bugliosi's 2008 book "Four Days In November" just seemed to make sense to the movie's producers. Landesman embarked on a period of intensive research that revealed a complex, multifaceted story he believed needed to be told. Landesman said: "Some people think they know all about it. But they don't know the story we are about to tell. To experience this film is to experience the assassination for the first time through the eyes of the ordinary people who lived it, people we didn't even know existed, but who played important roles from front-row seats to a true American tragedy. Everyone who read the script had the same comment: 'I had no idea'." As Landesman began to condense his narrative, he found himself strongly drawn to one particular thread in the saga. He continued: "I looked at the script and asked myself what the engine of the story was. What had no one ever seen before? No one had ever seen what happened inside Parkland Hospital. With that, the rest fell into place." The writer very quickly came up with a draft that thrilled everyone at Playtone. Producer Gary Goetzman said: "It was visceral. It was tactile. It was ferocious. It was kinetic. It really moved on the page."
When the script was completed, screenwriter Peter Landesman decided he wanted to direct the film himself, an idea that producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman immediately supported. Goetzman remembered: "Peter had worked so hard on the screenplay and felt so strongly about the material that when he wanted to make this his directing debut, Tom and I did not hesitate".
Based on the book "Four Days In November" (2008) by Vincent Bugliosi, the adapted screenplay for the film was written by award-winning journalist and novelist Peter Landesman, who made his directorial feature film debut with Parkland (2013).
Exclusive Media came on board to fully finance and co-produce the film with Playtone, from development and production to international sales and domestic release through their U.S.A distribution arm, Exclusive Releasing.
According to Exclusive Media's head of U.S. production Matt Jackson, who served as a producer on the film: "We were more than excited to get involved. The script was a page-turner, so we immediately mobilized on it."
CEO and co-chairman of Exclusive Media and Parkland (2013) producer Nigel Sinclair read the screenplay and knew he wanted to be in business with Peter Landesman. Sinclair said: "Parkland is about ordinary people caught up in a devastating event. The world will never be the same and they were at ground zero for the event that changed it. It makes no difference that you think you know the ending, because it's like you become one of these people."
Exclusive Media brought in the American Film Company, whose mandate to make movies about American history made it a perfect fit. "This is our first partnership with Playtone and we have found a great synergy between the two companies," said American Film Company president and executive producer Brian Falk. "The Kennedy assassination is more than just a piece of American history. It is a defining moment of the 20th century. It moved us into the '60s, Vietnam and distrust of government. It changed the culture. When I read the script, I was immediately interested by the unique take. Everybody knows what happened to the president that day, but what happened to the doctors at Parkland Hospital when he arrived? What happened to Abraham Zapruder after witnessing the events through the lens of his little 8mm camera? What happened to the Oswald family? It personalizes the Kennedy assassination in a new way."
Writer-director Peter Landesman knew he would have to go beyond published accounts and conduct his own interviews with those touched by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He said: "We began developing the script from Vince Bugliosi [Vincent Bugliosi]'s majestic book. But I also went looking for people who had never spoken before. When I was a journalist, I learned that the only people I really wanted to speak with were those who didn't want to speak to me. They are the ones who have the untouched truth. People who are eager to talk usually have an agenda. Landesman continued: "I found the ground-zero stories of the non-celebrities. These are the people whose names you don't know, the people who have withdrawn into the shadows of history. When the crisis was over, these people didn't capitalize on the publicity or gain attention from their front-row seat to history. They went back to work."
The family of Abraham Zapruder (played in the film by Paul Giamatti), the garment-industry executive who shot the notorious 26 seconds of 8mm film that recorded the instant of the shooting, had never publicly shared their story before. "This is the first time the family has cooperated with anyone," says Landesman. "I think they agreed to help because this script treats him with objectivity, clarity and fairness, perhaps for the first time. They realize this might be their last chance to tell their story themselves."
Director and screenwriter Peter Landesman spent three days with FBI Special Agent Jim Hosty before he died in June 2011. "To me, he is the most tragic figure, because he was doing his job, the job he loved, but he always felt that the FBI and others blamed him for the assassination."
In addition to interviews, writer-director Peter Landesman searched out sources of information that had been long forgotten: out-of-print books, oral histories, interviews tucked away for decades in drawers. "There are few really important accounts of the Oswald family," he said. "Probably the most valuable was a little-known book by historian Priscilla McMillan called 'Marina and Lee'. She was a young American journalist living in Moscow at the time that Lee Harvey Oswald defected to the Soviet Union. She interviewed him while he was recovering from a suicide attempt. After he was killed, she spent many days talking with his widow and her book was the only one that made simple, undeniable sense to me. The Robert Oswald storyline in the movie largely came out of that."
Producer Nigel Sinclair compared the film to an opera in its emotional scope. He said: "You couldn't make up the events of those three days. Lives were forever changed, and the story is an accumulation of reactions-surprise and horror, then integrity and great courage." He points to the response of John F. Kennedy's Secret Service team, which suddenly had to shift its efforts from protecting the late JFK to getting his successor, former Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, back to Washington D.C. safely. Sinclair added: "For Kennedy insiders, it was very hard."
Although the film was first released just prior to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of American President John F. Kennedy, writer-director Peter Landesman said the film is not really about the president's murder. Landesman said: "I would say the JFK assassination set off a ripple effect. The aftermath, the test of dignity and strength and grace-that's what the movie's about. Heroism doesn't happen when Superman rips off his clothes and puts on his cape. Real heroism is when people who are not being watched do the right thing under impossible circumstances."
The screenplay for the film, with more than eighty speaking roles, quickly became a must-read script in Hollywood, attracting the attention of Oscar winners, veteran players and up-and-coming young performers alike. Writer-director Peter Landesman's intensive research and detailed writing created the kinds of rich and varied characters that are any actor's dream to play, and a Who's Who of Hollywood elites soon lined up for the project. "It is an embarrassment of riches," says Jackson. "We got every actor we wanted for this. Agents, managers and actors read the script and flipped for it. And because Peter is so charming and so passionate about this, he was also an actor magnet."
As Forrest Sorrels, head of the Secret Service in Dallas, actor Billy Bob Thornton provided an anchor for the multiple stories threaded through the film. Producer Steve Shareshian, head of production for Playtone, said: "Billy Bob is someone we were dying to work with. His character is one of the few that spans the various strands of the film. Sorrels takes on the responsibility for the loss and Billy brings so much depth and wisdom to him." Writer-director Peter Landesman said "Billy's level-headed, smart and erudite. He is a brilliant film-maker and writer, as well as an actor, which made him an enormous asset to the production. He was a champion of the script from the very beginning. And because he's from Texas, it's a particularly important story for him. The part could have been written for him. He brings dignity and grace to that character that nobody else could. He can do so much with just with a look and you don't even notice until you're watching dailies." Thornton believed that, in Sorrel's mind, it was entirely his fault. "It was his detail and his guy died," the actor said. "But he didn't have time to be a broken man. The real Sorrel was a very mysterious character. Not many people know much about him. I think he felt so devastated by what happened that he kind of dropped out. He kept to himself and never really resurfaced." The frenetic pace of filming for the film was exhilarating for the actor. "It was a little bit like guerrilla warfare," Thornton said. "This was a short schedule for such a big movie. I admire Peter for tackling something this daunting. It's a huge undertaking and I wanted to be part of it because I think it will be a movie that will live on in history. It portrays one of the most iconic American tragedies in an entirely new way."
Dr. Charles "Jim" Carrico, the resident on duty when John F. Kennedy arrives at the already hectic emergency room, is an overachieving young surgeon just two years out of medical school. Zac Efron's breakout performance in Lee Daniel's The Paperboy (2012) convinced writer-director Peter Landesman that he was right for this role. "I knew Zac could do anything after I saw that film," the director said. "He has no idea how good an actor he is. He's incredible looking and he has been playing to a different demographic in projects like High School Musical (2006). But he is a professional and he came to work. He listened to direction and he gained strength from the amazing performers around him." Carrico was a relative newcomer to Parkland and still learning the ways of the hospital, said Efron. "He starts out pretty cocky and then his day takes a shocking turn. I was able to work with some fantastic surgeons who took me through every step of what happened in the trauma room, so I had great technical guidance." The actor is proud to be a part of the telling of what he sees as an important story. "I really admire and respect this cast so I'm honored to share the screen with them," he said. "And Peter is a great leader, very direct and confident. We didn't film this movie in a typical fashion in any way. He was capturing the action as if he were a fly on the wall. I've never worked this way. You never knew when you were on camera, so you always needed to be prepared. It became a whole different animal, especially in the trauma room."
The emergency room's Nurse Nelson, the majordomo of the trauma unit, was played by actress Marcia Gay Harden. "She brings a combination of compassion, discipline, grace under fire and pathos to the proceedings," said producer Gary Goetzman. Parkland was a teaching hospital with many doctors just at the beginning of their careers, Harden pointed out. "They work with a bevy of nurses who really run the trauma unit. Nurse Nelson is a rather stoic individual with an unflappable quality and she's in charge when the president is brought in. She gets the job done despite the wealth of emotions she's experiencing underneath the surface. Her job is to take care of the doctor who's taking care of President Kennedy [John F. Kennedy] and she does it well."
The children of actress Marcia Gay Harden and writer-director Peter Landesman attended the same school. The pair knew and admired each other before Harden was cast as Nurse Nelson. Landesman said: "Nurse Nelson is present in virtually every moment of the hospital thread. There are not a lot of lines, but as you watch the movie, it's clear that she's leading the charge. I needed someone with Marcia's presence and power. She also brought things to this role that I didn't anticipate. She moved me to tears a number of times."
Actress Marcia Gay Hardenm who played Nurse Nelson, embraced working with Zac Efron, who portrayed Dr. Charles "Jim" Carrico. Harden said: "Zac's beautiful, he's fun, he's charming, but he is also becoming an actor of depth. We were both terrified on Day One. Nurse Nelson and Dr. Carrico were working on Lee Harvey Oswald in an operating room, there was blood everywhere, and Peter [writer-director Peter Landesman] was saying, 'Do what you would do as a nurse and a doctor'. We didn't know what we were doing. Thankfully, we had medical personnel on hand to tell us what to say. We were just moving, moving, moving." Efron said: "Marcia is extraordinary in every way. She's always the most sensitive and smartest woman in the room. Nurse Nelson is a leader and a mother figure for the rest of the staff. She wills everybody to continue and Marcia gives an incredibly strong performance."
Dr. Malcolm Perry, Parkland's chief resident and the veteran doctor in the trauma room, was played by Colin Hanks. Writer-director Peter Landesman said: "Dr. Perry was the ramrod-straight, stiff-upper-lip veteran. While everyone else was spinning around, [Nurse] Nelson was trying to keep it together. Colin is the great revelation of this movie. He gives that chaotic, terrifying trauma room a still center." Hanks said: "When I read the script, I was looking for small details and connections, the little things that I did not know. For example, Dr. Perry presided over the attempts to save both JFK [John F. Kennedy] and Lee Harvey Oswald. I never knew they were both brought to the same hospital. I didn't know that the same medical staff attended both. It's another instance of real life being so much more fascinating than anybody could make up." Hanks added: "The manner in which the film was made was an actor's dream. There wasn't any waiting around for marks or line readings or turning around for coverage. It was very fast-paced and a lot of fun. It put me in the moment. Pretty much any actor worth their salt would line up to work with Peter."
Jackie Earle Haley appears as the Catholic priest, Father Huber, who is called in to administer last rites to President John F. Kennedy in the midst of the chaotic, blood-splattered operating room. Writer-director Peter Landesman said: "Jackie Earle Haley created a performance in just two days that was majestic. He walked cold into a room full of blood with actors who had been there for weeks and really delivered. Like everybody who touched this movie, he added something unique." Father Hubert happened to be at the closest Catholic church to Parkland and instinctively headed for the hospital, knowing the importance of Kennedy's faith and his significance to the Catholic community at large. Haley said: "At first glance, it seemed like a small role. But it was also very intriguing, both in the way Peter described the character and how he wanted to shoot it. It became even more fascinating as I understood the critical nature of his actions for any Catholic."
In the emergency room with John F. Kennedy are numerous members of the United States Secret Service, the FBI, and the Dallas Police Department, as law-enforcement officials race to piece together the tragic events. Tom Welling played Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman. Welling researched his role in both Dallas and Fort Worth before arriving on set. "Kellerman actually served under three other presidents before John F. Kennedy," the actor said. "He was riding in the front seat of the presidential limousine for the first time. It was to have been a big opportunity for him. From my research, it was a very difficult loss professionally and personally. There was a real relationship between the Secret Service agents and John F. Kennedy."
After the president John F. Kennedy's death, Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman (Tom Welling) takes charge of transporting the body back to Washington, an eventuality he was unprepared for. "Up until the point of the shot, it was a routine day," said Welling. "When this tragedy occurred, it was almost impossible to react. Imagine trying to get the wounded president into the hospital, and later getting the 300-pound casket up the narrow steps into Air Force One."
Of all the day's unwilling witnesses to history, no one felt his future more compromised than Abraham Zapruder, the Dallas businessman, who accidentally shot what may be the most famous twenty-six seconds of film in history. Zapruder is played in the film by Paul Giamatti. "People, of course, know the Zapruder film," said American Film Company president and one the film's executive producers Brian Falk. "But for most of America, his story ends there. They don't realize what happened to him in that next seventy-two hours."
Abraham Zapruder spent much of the rest of his life struggling with his association with the John F. Kennedy assassination. American Film Company president and one the film's executive producers Brian Falk said: "He had a constant battle with guilt and remorse, and on the other side of this, trying to make something out of it by selling the film. That complexity is something that Paul Giamatti, who plays Zapruder, handles effortlessly. He really is amazing to watch."
Abraham Zapruder immigrated to the United States from Russia as a child, and was particularly proud to be an American said actor Paul Giamatti who portrays Zapruder in the film. "He was very eager to see the president that day. It was supposed to be a wonderful celebratory thing. Then he goes through the trauma of seeing the president killed and the dawning that he has the entire assassination on the film. He has something that is going to be of incalculable consequence in history. And he realizes that this will define his life and his family's lives. It's a shattering thing for him."
The Super 8 film camera that Abraham Zapruder used was cutting edge at the time, said star Paul Giamatti who portrays Zapruder in the movie. "He was a photography enthusiast, but he wasn't planning to bring the camera that day. At any event that happens today, everybody's filming it, but at the time it was completely unprecedented."
Billy Bob Thornton enjoyed the opportunity to meet and work with a kindred spirit in actor Paul Giamatti. "Paul and I didn't know each other before this movie," Thornton said. "But we already had a little bit of a mutual admiration society going the first time we met. Paul's a terrific guy and a terrific actor. It was uncanny how similar we are in so many ways. We worry about the same stuff. We think the same things about acting and life."