Ten years ago, record producer Phil Spector was arrested and convicted of murdering Hollywood actress, Lana Clarkson. Spector was well known for 'terrorising' women with guns – but still, the verdict was a surprise.
This July Sky Atlantic aired Phil Spector - an HBO-produced film starring Al Pacino in the titular role - which follows Spector's pretrial. Last month, we interviewed Spector's adopted daughter, Nicole, who maintain's her father's innocence about why she refuses to watch the film...
Nicole Spector with her father, Phil, in 1997
In 2003, the world was shocked when American actress Lana Clarkson was found shot dead at Phil Spector’s home. The most successful music producer of all time, who’d worked with everyone from The Beatles to Tina Turner, he always maintained his innocence saying she killed herself – by accident. Phil Spector was eventually convicted and formally sentenced to 19 years to life in May 2009. Now an HBO biopic, entitled Phil Spector, written and directed by David Mamet and starring Hollywood heavyweight Al Pacino in the lead role, depicts the “fictionalised” events after Lana Clarkson’s death leading up to the first trial. Adding to the star quality, Helen Mirren plays his lawyer.
The film, which spans the period after Lana’s death up to the 2007 trial, purports Spector’s innocence while painting his character as an eccentric and narcissist, out of step with the modern world. Despite this ‘innocence’ angle, one person who says she won’t be watching is Phil’s daughter Nicole Spector, whose mother was Spector’s girlfriend at the time, Janis Zavala: “That’s not really my Dad. It’s a weird caricature of a caricature”, she told Grazia last month in New York.
Currently living in Brooklyn, the 30-year-old writer finds it strange that her father’s name has been used on a supposed work of fiction: “I’m a little more curious about the film now as it sounds like it’s suggesting arguable innocence, but I still wish that David Mamet and HBO hadn’t created a largely fictional character. It seems a little cowardly on their part.’
On February 3, 2003, Clarkson was found dead in Spector's home in California. She had a single gunshot wound to her mouth. At the time, Spector stated that Clarkson's death was an "accidental suicide", although there were reports that Spector actually confessed to the killing. Either way, the court case became one of the most high profile celebrity murder cases of the century.
Helen Mirren and Al Pacino in a still from the film, 'Phil Spector'
Nicole says she’s found it impossible to avoid the film altogether. “I saw a few stills when it was being promoted there was one on my subway stop. I guess Al Pacino [who knew Spector] does a convincing job but the way (they’ve portrayed him) is dark and mean and surly. The truth is, he’s very softly spoken - sometimes we’d go for meals and he wouldn’t say a word. It wasn’t a menacing silence he was just in his own thoughts.”
Growing up, Nicole’s life was very different to that of the stereotypical child of a celebrity. “There would be tastes of glamour but they would be very chaste, it was almost like going into a fantasy world that wasn’t really real. I don’t even think I had a 16th birthday party. I never had a credit card or a trust fund. These things are still foreign to me.”
Despite her parents’ separating when she was eight, Spector still played an active part in Nicole’s life, picking her up most days from school and taking her to Lakers’ games three times a week. Recalling the afternoon she found out her father had been arrested - “I remember I was in class and a friend of the family came and got me and said, ‘They took your father’” - she thought it was a joke, describing her father as ‘baffled’ when she spoke to him about that evening.
Despite the fact that Spector was convicted, the film declares the court-case a mistrial. Interestingly, there is no mention of Nicole and her family. Still, she says she hopes that the film will lead to Spector getting an appeal. “Ultimately if that’s [the film] the price that I have to pay for him to be considered innocent, it’s fine.”
Phil Spector in court
Words: Sara Morgan-Beckett