Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Phil Spector is, in a sense, being retried in the court of artistic expression in the HBO biopic Phil Spector that debuts this spring featuring the typically impressive HBO pedigree: Al Pacino in the title role as Spector and Helen Mirren as his co-star. Oh, and David Mamet as writer-director. At the afternoon TCA panel promoting the film, defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden, who defended Spector in his first trial for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson and served as a consultant on the film, remains unconvinced that her client did in fact commit the crime. “It was not proven,” she believes, “and to some degree that’s what this movie explores. What does reasonable doubt mean in a jury trial? Mamet, too, remains unconvinced of Spector’s guilt. “All I knew when we started the project is that he was a freak who killed some girl,” he said. But by the time he finished watching a documentary about Spector, Mamet admits he had changed his tune, to the point where he was almost equally convinced that Spector was extremely bright, misunderstood — and quite possibly not guilty. But his marching orders were “don’t indict the victim,” so he worked to make sure that was the case.
For her part, Mirren, who portrays Baden, experienced the difficulty of coming in late to the process and more or less having to wing it. She replaced original star Bette Midler, who was forced to quit the role two weeks into production due to injury. “Fortunately, I didn’t feel that I had to do the most perfect, immaculate amalgamation,” Mirren said of the role. “The challenge was trying to find the tone of the piece, the nature of Phil Spector and the life that he lived. You get the sense that he’s someone who lived permanently in a dream….But all of the stories about Phil are so extraordinary, you can’t exaggerate them.”
One critic was puzzled, however, how Midler could have been replaced by Mirren, given their drastically different physical appearances. Without missing a beat, Mirren deadpanned, “But we’re both blonde.”