November 22, 1963 – The day the world stood still and mourned the assassination of the 35th President of the United States.
President John F. Kennedy, 46, suffered a fatal wound to the head as his motorcade rode through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.
I wasn’t born yet, however, I often feel as though I was. I’ve always been so deeply impacted by this.
The Alfred Zapruder film that captures this dark moment in our history will always be singed into the minds of anyone’s who sees it. It’s been reenacted multiple times and in multiple films about the Kennedy family.
Award-Winning Writer/Director, Stephen Gyllenhaal was just recently announced as the man who will pen and direct a new film that focuses on this fateful day.
The Kennedy Detail – also the title of the book on which it is based, tells the story of President Kennedy’s Secret Service detail with him on the day of the assassination and from their perspective.
“I followed them my whole life, so I know a lot about them. I’ve sort of absorbed it over the years.” Stephen said of the Kennedy family.
A conversation with Stephen is not your average conversation. It’s a conversation with someone who has a vast knowledge of almost any topic you bring to the table – with that knowledge you also get the passion he has in discussing it. It’s very contagious.
He told me via phone the story of how he became involved with this project.
“Ken Atchity and I had been talking about another script that was kind of a romantic comedy. It was an interesting piece. We met a couple of times and discovered we were of like minds; we liked each other right away. It was nice to run into a producer like that.” Stephen said. “We circled around it for a while, I was busy doing Grassroots – which is a comedy and I love comedies, but I’m really a drama guy. So, there was a script which we were going to do a rewrite on with the original writer. I just didn’t have the time and I wanted to do something a bit different than a comedy.”
“I think it was also Ken Atchity who had gone to my agent and was talking about The Kennedy Detail and various people who might be able to do it, my agent had suggested that I write and direct it. He had seen the script for Grassroots liked it and thought it was an interesting idea. I was just finishing up with Grassroots and was heading to my first vacation in over a year – I was going to Paris with my wife and he got me the book before I took off on vacation and asked me if I was interested. You bet I’m interested.”
Stephen looked back on November 22, 1963.
“This is a subject that I’ve been very wrapped up in since I was a kid; I was in the 7th grade when Kennedy was assassinated. I remember it very, very well.” Stephen said. “My father was a Democrat in a very Republican town, both of my parents were. He was a World War II veteran and saw appropriately that JFK was ushering in a new frontier of real hope – he was devastated about the assassination and I absorbed that. I’ve always enjoyed history ever since I was really little. I just love it. So, I thought that this project would be interesting.”
Stephen read the book while he and his wife were on vacation in the world of romance.
“From my point of view the book captured the real emotional impact of both being around Kennedy and understanding who he really was – then experiencing the assassination, then at that point, his movement from real person, flesh and blood to legend, myth and to who I think is one of the cornerstones of contemporary democracy. For me, this is extremely exciting.” Stephen said. “I’ve now met with main secret service agents themselves, and they are amazing. They’re in their late 70’s and early 80’s. It affected them beyond words which is why it’s so good to put this in pictures in the end. I kind of interviewed them very intensely over the last two weeks.”
Unfortunately, much of what we’ve seen in the past about the Kennedys has been done more as soap-style TV films – they play out like exposes. Sadly, that causes the audience to doubt the facts that we’re exposed to in these films.
With Stephen’s skill, passion about the Kennedy family, and history we should expect a film that is historically accurate, factual and not like any film that we’ve seen before on this topic.
“These are real heroes that are amazingly confronting the times that they were in.” Stephen said fondly of the Secret Service men. “Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, all the movie stars of the time, all the glitz, all the celebrity, all the power at the height of America in 1963. At Cape Canaveral the space program was just getting going and Cadillacs were really big.”
“Hopefully the movie will explore the profound sense of optimism, youthfulness and sense of real power over one’s life and over the future – then history stepped in and began to teach us as it always teaches every civilization some profound lesson which is that you really don’t have control over much and then you start to grow up. That was a process that we went through.”
The Kennedy Detail will be released before the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination next year.
Bryan Cain-Jackson for http://technorati.com