HBO film unmasks "Dr. Death", Jack Kevorkian

Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:30pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Twenty years after becoming one of America's most polarizing figures, Dr. Jack Kevorkian returns to the media limelight on Saturday in an HBO film about his crusade to help the terminally ill die.

But as the title suggests, "You Don't Know Jack" aims to give Americans a very different portrait of the man once vilified in newspapers and television broadcasts as Dr. Death.

Al Pacino plays the former pathologist who helped 130 patients end their lives over a 10-year period before being sent to prison in 1999 for second-degree murder.

"Jack Kevorkian is a person you think you know. But at the end of the story, you find yourself saying 'He's different than I would have thought he would be'," Pacino told reporters recently.

But the Oscar-winning actor never met Kevorkian, now 81 and out of prison, before filming began.

"There are characters you do meet with, and it works and there are some you don't. I don't know why," Pacino told journalists, saying he had simply "absorbed" Kevorkian in preparation for the role.

Kevorkian invented two devices -- the Thanatron (death machine) and Mercitron (mercy machine) -- to pump lethal drugs or gas to terminally-ill individuals, and performed his first assisted suicide in 1990.

After numerous trials, he was eventually convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder after allowing a videotape of one such suicide to be aired on national television.   Continued...

<p>Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian poses with actor Al Pacino (R), who plays Kevorkian in the TV film "You Don't Know Jack", during the film's premiere in New York April 14, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>