While our nation continues to argue about gun control, Mark David Chapman, the man who shot ex-Beatle John Lennon, was just turned down for parole again at the end of August. It’s hard to believe that the tragedy happened almost 35 years ago when it still feels fresh to me and so many others. It’s odd to think that those born post-1980 may not even know what happened.
No matter what age you are, I bet you can’t name any of the people who tried to save Lennon’s life that night in New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital. My hunch is you don’t remember any of the doctors’ names or the nurses, police officers or the man who broke the story, but you recognize the name of the killer.
As gun violence runs rampant in our society, the media bombards us with the names of the gunmen over and over and over. Now, Jeremy Profe, writer and director of “The Lennon Report,” a new movie about the unsung heroes, wants to start a trend that celebrates rescue teams instead of making murderers famous.
TheBlot Magazine’s Dorri Olds landed an exclusive interview with Profe:
Dorri Olds: Why this movie? Why now?
Jeremy Profe: I was approached to write a screenplay about John Lennon’s murder. I said I would only agree to work on this if we did not mention the shooter’s name and if we could unearth new information about the people who tried to save him.
Is the reason that you’re not going to mention Chapman’s name because you don’t want him to get any more fame out of this?
Yes, that is exactly why. It occurred to me after the shootings in Newton, Conn. that I could name Adam Lanza off the top of my head, but I couldn’t tell you the names of the victims or any of the people that were part of the rescue effort. We barely hear about the true stories of heroism. In our culture, we make stars and anti-heroes out of villains. These are truly reprehensible people, and it’s a disturbing trend to me, and I won’t take part in it.
Were you actually able to find new information on such a highly publicized event?
Well, c’mon! What is it?
I can’t give away spoilers, but I will say this: We were able to get firsthand accounts from two doctors and two nurses who were in the room with Lennon that night and who had not been willing to talk openly before. These heroes did everything they could to save “John Doe.” They had no idea it was Lennon.
Why are these people willing to speak now?
We reassured everyone we spoke to that this is not going to be just one more exploitation of that tragic event. We told them that our story was about the heroism that night. Then they finally relented and were willing to talk to us. The two nurses said they had not wanted to go public when it happened because they didn’t think it was appropriate while the family was grieving. And, as the years went by, they didn’t want that night, that one event of John Lennon’s death, to be the defining moment of their lives. They didn’t want to spend the rest of their existence telling that terrible story. We were ecstatic when we found these people and that they really respected what we are trying to do with our movie.
Who are the key figures represented in the film?
In the hospital, the night of the shooting, an ABC-TV producer named Alan Weiss just happened to be brought in after a motorcycle accident. That single coincidence is what led to the story breaking on Monday Night Football.
That was way before cellphones. How did this guy get the story onto the news so fast?
Nobody in the hospital knew that the wounded man was John Lennon except for the police officers that brought him in. Alan picked up a few little pieces of information and figured it out and managed to get his way to a phone. It was a big challenge to him because they were trying to lock down the ER. But he did manage to call the ABC newsroom where he worked.
How did he get to a phone if he’d just been in a motorcycle accident?
When a security guard tried to block Alan, the cop that brought Alan in said, “What’re you doing out of bed? We brought you in on stretcher.” Alan told the cop he just had to get to a phone. Alan was 29 at that time and knew this was a huge story and a career-maker for him. That officer had no idea that it was John Lennon who had been shot, so he helped Alan get to a phone and then back to his room. In the film, that cop will be played by Kevin Dillon of “Entourage.” His story sets off all of the major story arc.
[Note: Dillon plays Johnny “Drama” Chase in the “Entourage” movie now in post-production and slated for 2015]
Who are the other actors in the film?
We have just begun casting. There will be a lot of name actors, but until contracts are signed, I am not at liberty to say.
Darn! When will filming begin?
This fall, late October. And the movie will certainly be out in 2015 to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Lennon’s death. We want to get across to younger viewers who’ve been brought up in the TMZ world of celebrity gossip that it was a different time. This was gun violence by a rogue psycho killer on the Upper West Side of New York City. It was a completely different story than Cameron Diaz in a bikini on vacation. This was a world news event, and that’s how Alan approached the story. It was hard news.
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.