Nat Geo’s adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Reagan will dodge the controversy spawned by the book’s suggestion that Ronald Reagan suffered intellectual decline after an assassination attempt on his life. “We deal with the assassination attempt in a limited way,” screenwriter Eric Simonson told TV critics at TCA. The “limited way” doesn’t include O’Reilly’s depiction of Reagan’s dementia.
“One of the decisions Eric had to make is what do we not
include from the book,” director Rod Lurie
chimed in. O’Reilly’s book, he explained, deals with the post-assassination controversy, as well as Reagan’s childhood, his affairs, and his relationship with Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev. “We made the decision to confine it to this six-month period, so a lot of things you’re talking about did not need to be dealt with.”
O’Reilly’s book was “very successful” and “very entertaining,” Lurie said, adding “but I was telling the story that Eric gave to me. I’m more working on Simonson’s Killing Reagan than O’Reilly’s.”
With this week’s news that Reagan’s would-be assassination John Hinckley will soon be released from a Washington psychiatric hospital, to live full-time with his 90-year-old mother in Williamsburg, Virginia, panelists naturally got asked for their thoughts. (A judge this week said that Hinckley can leave the hospital next month with restrictions.
“He’s not coming to the premiere. I can tell you that,” Lurie snarked.
“Nancy wouldn’t like it,” said Cynthia Nixon, who plays the former First Lady in the project.
Lurie also noted that while some Reagan family members aren’t happy, the original judge 34 year ago said Hinckley should remain confined “until such time as no longer mentally ill and no longer a danger. And in this country we don’t extend confinements, willy-nilly, because he shot an American President.”
Kyle S. More, who plays Hinckley in the project, added that Secret Service has said “he’s never going to be really free; they’re always going to have one eye out.”