Phil Spector TV film splits opinion like record producer himself

Fri Mar 22, 2013 2:11pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Phil Spector's life could be summed up in four words - musical genius, eccentric and murderer.

Playwright David Mamet's HBO film "Phil Spector," which airs on Sunday, makes the most of all of them but his take on the 2007 murder trial of the record producer has split opinion as much as the crime itself.

Al Pacino plays the bombastic, multi-wigged, gun-obsessed creator of the 1960s "Wall of Sound" recording technique in the weeks before his first trial in Los Angeles for the 2003 shooting death of struggling actress Lana Clarkson.

The first trial ended in a deadlocked jury. Spector, who pleaded not guilty and never took the witness stand, was convicted of second-degree murder after a second trial in 2009.

The 73-year-old is serving 19 years to life in prison and did not collaborate on the project.

Neither documentary nor pure fiction, Mamet's film begins with a puzzling disclaimer saying that it is "a work of fiction ... not based on a 'true story.'"

TV critics and family members of Spector and Clarkson say Mamet is trying to have it both ways, with mixed results.

"It's almost impossible to get past the notion of presenting 'Phil Spector' as 'fiction' which - given the meticulous recreation of events, down to the music producer's crazy wigs - sounds more like an after-the-fact fear of defamation lawsuits than anything else," wrote Variety's Brian Lowry in a review.   Continued...

Writer, director and executive producer David Mamet (L) and British actress Helen Mirren take part in a panel discussion of HBO's "Phil Spector" during the 2013 Winter Press Tour for the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, California January 4, 2013. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas