LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - One of Phil Spector’s sons has praised a documentary that depicts the convicted homicidal music producer as a sociopath and a narcissist.
The film, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector,” is based on a 3-1/2-hour interview conducted for the BBC before the music icon’s first trial for murdering a struggling actress at his mansion in 2003.
A witty Spector regales director Vikram Jayanti with the stories behind his biggest productions, such as the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High.”
Complete versions of 21 songs that Spector produced are often played over courtroom footage, sometimes with chilling effect such as when John Lennon’s “Woman is the Nigger of the World” accompanies testimony relating to his victim, Lana Clarkson.
But for the most part, Spector considers himself a lifelong victim, abandoned by a father who committed suicide, bullied at school, and disrespected by the music industry.
Jayanti said following a screening in Hollywood on Thursday that he frequently got the sense from Spector that 40-year-old Clarkson “had come into his house and ruined his life” by dying of a gunshot blast through the mouth.
Spector claimed Clarkson committed suicide, the first jury was deadlocked, but a second jury found him guilty of second-degree murder last year. Now 70, he is serving a sentence of 19 years to life in California.
Spector’s 44-year-old son Louis was among those in the audience at the Egyptian Theater, and he told Jayanti that he appreciated the movie.
“It touched me, it moved me and it was a real experience that I quite enjoyed, and I love the respect that you gave Lana Clarkson on her behalf and the respect you gave to my father,” he said to applause and to Jayanti’s apparent relief.
“You did a wonderful job and it’s a photo album that I am happy to share with other people,” he added.
Louis Spector and twin brother Gary were adopted at the age of five by Spector and then-wife, Ronnie Spector. Both the brothers and their mother said they were abused by the producer. Ronnie Spector, lead singer of the Spector-produced girl group the Ronettes, divorced him in 1974.
Some critics have said the film shows Spector in an overly positive light, and Jayanti told the audience he believed the first jury was correct in failing to find him guilty because the defense had generated “a scintilla of reasonable doubt.” He did not attend the second trial.
Jayanti, who has made films about other fallen icons such as boxer Muhammad Ali and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, said he deliberately focused on Spector’s heyday as the mad genius behind the layered “Wall of Sound” production technique rather than on his tawdry personal life and the events surrounding the murder.
One of the few uncomfortable moments, which did not make it to the film, occurred when Jayanti raised the subject of Spector’s wigs. Spector sported a gravity-defying hairstyle at his first trial, and Jayanti thought it would be funny to have Spector model his wig collection.
“At that point the room went really cold,” Jayanti said. “His bodyguards stopped playing cards in the background ... And he said, ‘What wig?’ And I said, All your wigs. And he said, ‘I don’t have any wigs ... Who have you been talking to?'”
Jayanti quickly changed the subject, though Spector’s prison mugshot later proved that his inquisitor was right.
He said he has not had a chance to discuss the film with Spector, but doubted he would approve of the finished product.
“Everyone that I’ve ever made a film about gets quite depressed after they see the film,” he said. “But I think in the long run he will see it as the best review he will ever get.”
Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Vicki Allen