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Nat Geo’s ‘Killing Reagan’ Ditches Bill O’Reilly’s Controversial Post-Assassination Theory – TCA

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.
Killing Reagan book cover
“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.”

Killing Reagan is scheduled to premiere on National Geographic Channel in the U.S. and in 171 countries in 45 languages, including Nat Geo Mundo.

Reagan Riding

More than a decade ago, CBS wound up not airing its much ballyhooed Reagan miniseries after the project raised eyebrows in various quarters for such elements as the casting of Barbara Streisand’s husband James Brolin as Ronald Reagan (Judy Davis played Nancy Reagan).

More recently, this past April the hue and cry went up when reports surfaced that Will Ferrell, who played George W. Bush on Saturday Night Live and on Broadway, might be playing Reagan on the big screen in an adaptation of  The Black List Reagan script from Mike Rosolio. The 40th President’s son Michael Reagan and daughter Patti Davis both expressed outrage over the project. Announced in December in the 11th edition of the most-liked un-produced screenplays, Rosolio’s Reagan is set at the end of 1984 when Reagan had just been re-elected in a landslide. In the script, he is suffering from dementia, and an intern, who’s hoping to move up, is tasked with trying to convince the former SAG leader he is in a movie in which he is playing the President.

Michael Reagan tweeted, “#Alzheimers is not a comedy to the 5 million people who are suffering with the decease, it first robs you of your mind and then it kills you.”

Among those who blasted Bill O’Reilly’s book, USA Today called it a “misfire” in that it “deals more with Reagan’s gradual descent into dementia, the result of his fight with Alzheimer’s disease” and “asserts Reagan exhibited signs of the illness during his presidency.” The book also has been dinged for delving into Reagan’s affairs in Hollywood, parenting, and disputes with Nancy.

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