March 14th, 2013
05:45 PM ET
Al Pacino is taking on a complex character once again, this time playing legendary music producer Phil Spector in the new eponymous HBO film.
Pacino credits director David Mamet for helping him wrap his mind around the man who produced hits for the Beatles and Tina Turner, and who was also convicted in 2008 of fatally shooting actress and model Lana Clarkson in his mansion.
“The script was written by Mamet, and that’s a real plus,” Pacino told CNN at the movie’s New York premiere. “It helps actors. He’s sort of what we call actor-proof.”
Elaborate costumes also allowed Pacino to get into the producer’s mindset, and he admits he particularly liked donning outlandish wigs for the role.
“I was just getting started when the shoot was over!" Pacino laughed. "I like wigs!”
As it turns out, Pacino has used some in his personal life as well.
"I wore wigs once, I had a thing called alopecia areata," the 72-year-old actor said. "When you get stressed sometimes you lose your hair. And I lost a lot of my hair at one point. It simply fell out 'cause I had a sort of stressful time. And I had to do movies with that, so we used wigs, and then I got used to [them]! I thought it was easier! You know, you just put the thing on like a hat, you know, tighten it up. Always stays the same, doesn’t bother. You gotta stay out of the pool though!”
The HBO film, Spector’s defense attorney, Linda Kenney Baden, told CNN, examines how public perception of defendants impacts their cases.
“Do we convict people because of how they look, what they look like, whether they’re freaky looking? Or do we convict people on the evidence?” she asked. “This is what the soul-searching in this movie is about.”
Kenney Baden adds that she thinks Pacino "brought passion to the part, a very nuanced part, and showed people that there is a different side of Philip."
Yet supporters of the late Clarkson feel differently about the film. A group called “Friends of Lana Clarkson,” along with her former publicist Edward Lozzi, are protesting the HBO film at a Los Angeles screening on Thursday.
In a press release, the protestors say the movie is “an inaccurate and hurtful portrayal of historical events at the expense of people still alive today who were friends of Lana Clarkson. The film portrays Lana Clarkson as being responsible for her own death, which is totally unacceptable to decent society.”
Yet even before the protests, Mamet strove to set the movie up as more of a mythological story than a documentary or portrayal of hard facts. He starts the movie with a disclaimer title card that labels it as a work of fiction, continuing, “It’s not ‘based on a true story.’ It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial or its outcome.”
Pacino and his co-star Helen Mirren have described the film as focusing on the dynamic of the attorney-client relationship, rather than precisely depicting the events of Spector’s real-life trial.
“It was a really interesting project, and I’m glad I did it,” Pacino said.
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