ENTERTAINMENT
22/11/2013 08:01 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

'Parkland' Director Peter Landesman Calls Oliver Stone's 'JFK' Film 'An Interesting Fairytale, Bullsh*t'

The director of a new film covering the assassination of JFK 50 years ago today, says that "Oliver Stone's film is an interesting fairytale... but it's bullshit".

Peter Landesman's 'Parkland' concentrates on those residents of Dallas whose lives were directly affected by the shooting of the president in their hometown, from Doctor Charles 'Jim' Carico (Zac Efron) who tried to save Kennedy in the Parkland hospital, to Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), whose filming of Kennedy's drive-by made him the inadvertent sole record-bearer to the tragedy, to Lee Harvey Oswald's brother who, according to the director, was an ordinary man who "woke up and discovered he was the brother of the devil".

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Paul Giamatti plays Abraham Zapruder, an unwilling witness to history

Landesman says of Stone's 1991 film, which detailed a massive conspiracy behind JFK's death, "I was actually angry, Oliver I'm friendly with, the movie JFK is an interesting fairytale, let it wash over you, Oliver is a visual master, but it's bullshit, complete fiction.

"You're telling me the Cubans and the homosexuals and (President's brother) RFK and (Vice-president) LBJ and the CIA all got together, with Fidel Castro as cheerleader and all 15,000 met at Madison Square Garden and came up with one plan? That makes a lot of sense. Come on!"

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Zac Efron plays the doctor who fought desperately to keep the president alive in Parkland Hospital, Dallas

Instead of taking on the conspiracy or the legacy, Landesman's film is intensely personal, with the famous events seen through the eyes of those involuntarily involved in the nation's biggest story.

"I was in New York on 9/11, and remembered what it was to live in fear in your own home town," remembers the director. "I thought... that's the movie, the assassination happened to us, JFK was a spectator, even Jackie was a spectator. We put that man in office and he was taken away from us, he wasn't a king who inherited the crown, he was our president and he was ripped away, and that's the genus of this."

Despite his description of her as another spectator to the day's events, Landesman's respect for Jackie Kennedy's deportment on the day is evident...

"Jackie behaved with incredible dignity, she had an extraordinary day," he says. "Her only moment of shock and bad behaviour was in the operating room, walking around with a piece of brain in her hands, but to me she was just a 32-year-old girl with two kids."

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For Landesman, Jackie Kennedy was "just a woman who'd lost her husband, and was covered with his blood"

But his sympathy also extends to the family of Lee Harvey Oswald, brought to screen most keenly by actor James Badge Dale as Lee's brother Robert.

"There's nobody more average than Robert Oswald, an accountant, two kids, lower middle class, wakes up one day and his brother's the devil. And you're not reading about it, you're involved in the biggest event on planet earth.

"James Badge Dale's performance elevates it to a level of mysticism, and he becomes the audience, with our utmost sympathy."

But, despite this, and the presence of stars Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden in the hospital scenes, as well as Billy Bob Thornton as a Secret Service agent desperate to get his hands on the film of a traumatised Zapruder, Landesman explains there is no one character to claim our sympathy...

"They were all pushing in the same direction, trying to save the same guy. In a hospital, there's hierarchy, but no star. In my film, there was no protagonist, they were all covered in blood."

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Robert Oswald was, for Landesman, a figure desrving of great sympathy

And what of the great legacy of Camelot, that sits alongside any recollection of that fateful day? Landesman takes a typically pragmatic approach...

"Camelot was just beginning, but JFK's become more of a celebrity in martyrdom than in reality," he reflects.

"There was glamour, but we have that with all sitting presidents. I think in his death, we've applied a lot more of that philosophical meaning. You put a frame around something, you take a messy life and create a narrative, and turn him into a martyr, and who's going to argue with that?"

'Parkland' is in UK cinemas today. WATCH our Exclusive Clip below, showing the moment when a shocked Jackie Kennedy watches Lyndon B Johnson sworn in as President, only a couple of hours after her husband JFK is assassinated beside her in Dallas...