Parkland director Peter Landesman on the JFK conspiracies
Parkland recounts the events at a Dallas hospital on the day that Kennedy died. The director discusses America's 50-year obsession
Why make a JFK film that sticks only to the immediate aftermath of the killing?
Because of Oliver Stone’s movie [JFK] we’ve been distracted by what I thought were secondary stories, the fictional murder mystery; distracted by what was more important and true: the power of what happened to people on this weekend. They seem peripheral but I think as the movie goes on you realise they are central. These are the people to whom this thing happened.
How did you help some of the actors inhabit such roles as Jackie Kennedy and Marguerite Oswald, people we have seen recreated on film and TV before?
I mostly asked them to remove preconceptions and think about these figures as people, not as statues or icons but living, breathing people. The movie is very present tense, it’s not historical, not past. The movie is all about emotion and forces you to feel as if you’re experiencing it all for the first time.
Are Americans as interested in the assassination now as much as they ever were?
I think it is a national obsession. Most of the conversation is still about who did it and why and how it was done. We know the answers but the questions are being repeated over and over.
It’s entertaining and it’s an intellectual chess game, and it’s more interesting intellectually than to accept – pardon me – the truth. American political character is in its adolescent stages. We’re young and we’re not sophisticated enough to understand that these conspiracies are nonsense.
Was there ever any doubt in your mind?
It’s not something you need to explain to yourself or make sense of. If you look at the proven forensic facts in front of you, it is not very complicated. It’s clear. There’s no question of what happened in this case. It’s messy because it’s bloody but not in terms of forensics. Look, it’s maths. Gunfire is maths and physics. It’s not open to interpretation.
Does your film try to conclude the whole thing? Can any film or book do that?
I suppose it’s not that different from the conversation about whether God exists. Everyone wants closure. They’re never going to get it. It’s part of the human condition to ask questions you can’t get answers to, to keep us searching. With this subject, Americans seem to feel the need to keep searching.
Parkland is in cinemas from November 22