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Prepare for Al Pacino, Helen Mirren, and the Mamet Clan to Terrify You with Phil Spector

A parade of theater folk will bring the notorious — and apparently terrifying — record producer's murder trial to HBO on March 24.

By • New York City

That's L to R: Helen Mirren and Al Pacino in <I>Phil Spector</I>.
That's L to R: Helen Mirren and Al Pacino in Phil Spector.
So, this poster is hanging in Times Square, scaring the bejesus out of tourists and natives alike. No, it's not Tony Award winner Al Pacino (Glengarry Glen Ross) in very fishy drag and Academy Award winner Dame Helen Mirren (The Queen) playing Phil Spector — despite the dubiously placed billing. (Graphic design fail) Rather, it's Pacino as the infamous record producer and Mirren as his defense attorney, Linda Kenney Baden, top-lining the new HBO movie penned by Pulitzer Prize winner and Broadway staple David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross). Simply titled Phil Spector, the drama is set to premiere March 24.

In addition to Pacino and Mirren (a West End stage regular), Mamet tapped a litter of New York theater folk to flesh out his tale, including Atlantic Theater Company's Artistic Director and Tony Award-winning director Neil Pepe; his wife, Atlantic Director of Education Mary McCann; and company member/Broadway veteran Jordan Lage (Speed-the-Plow), all former students of Mamet himself. Clara Mamet (daughter of David, half sister of Really, Really star Zosia) plays "Paint Girl," prominently featured in the official trailer, while Pacino reunites with Merchant of Venice costar Matthew Rauch.

Spector was a pioneer in the girl group genre, as well as the inventor of the "wall of sound" technique for recording music (featured in songs like The Beatles' "Let it Be"), which Spector called "a Wagnerian approach to rock & roll." You can take a look at an excellent performance by Ronnie Spector and her group the Ronettes, which Phil produced, here. Spector married Ronnie in 1968, but she was smart enough to get out in 1974. (Good for you, girl.)

Because beyond being a musical genius, Spector is truly creepy. His music might underscore your dreams, but his visage will haunt your nightmares. Spector was accused of shooting actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 and found guilty of second-degree murder in 2009, sentenced to 19 years in prison. (He was 69 years old at the time.) Mamet's screenplay focuses on that murder trial.

The film opens with a disclaimer stating that it is "inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons nor to comment upon the outcome." But that's all just a legal formality, right? We know that these two big Kahunas of the screen will act the wigs right off of Spector and his counsel.

"I would sit for hours just looking at Phil talking about things," Pacino said via satellite to reporters at the Television Critics Association on March 1. Not an attempt to depict the actual persons, right? Right...

Pacino is no stranger to the dark side. The memory of his psychotic performance in 1980's Cruising, about a serial killer targeting the denizens of New York City's gay leather bars, still has the power to send chills down the backside of many a gay boy as he crosses the threshold of the Eagle. And the role of Spector fits well with Pacino's recent string of aging baddies on Broadway, following sad sack Shelly Levene in the revival of Glengarry, and shrewd businessman Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

No word on how many f-bombs are in Mamet's Spector script, but if The Anarchist is any indicator...it'll be zero.

Gear up for March 24 with this dose of crazytown:

Tags: Atlantic Theater CompanyAl PacinoDavid MametHBOHelen MirrenPhil SpectorNeil PepeMary McCannClara MametMatthew RauchJordan Lage


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