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Fictional Elements in CHANGELING (SPOILERS)

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  • Fictional Elements in CHANGELING (SPOILERS)

    I just read the delightful interview with Clint Eastwood in the Guardian. Age hasn't thwarted the Man With No Name's aim or Dirty Harry's ability to shoot straight!

    http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview...283921,00.html

    But I was very intrigued by something he said about CHANGELING.

    I know that parts of the movie are heavily fictionalized, and as Gordon Stewart Northcott's biographer, I'm very curious as to what's true in the movie and what isn't.

    A quote from the article:

    There are actually echoes of Dirty Harry in Changeling, Eastwood says, and he's not making any concessions to liberals: "I get a kick out of it because the judge convicts the killer to two years in solitary confinement, and then to be hanged. In 1928 they said: 'You can spend two years thinking about it and then we're going to kill you.' Nowadays they're sitting there worrying about how putting a needle in is a cruel and unusual punishment, the same needle you would have if you had a blood test."

    (end quote)

    That's fiction.

    Northcott was sentenced to hang for three counts of murder in February 1929 (not 1928), and was hangled over a year later, on 2 October 1930. He survived as long as he did not because of a two-year sentence to solitary confinement, but because of an accident-prone appeals lawyer. His attorney was involved in several accidents and had to reschedule Northcott's appeals. Then Northcott's appeal was denied, and he was hanged.

    I'm thrilled that the movie is coming out, because it will really help sell my book. But I look forward to "setting the record straight" on the movie as more details on it come out.

    I've simply got to ask the filmmakers: "You've got ask yourselves just one question: Do I feel accurate?"

    "Well, do ya, punks?"

  • #2
    Eastwood specifically requested the part about the Changeling being "a true story" to be taken out of the press release.

    It's a piece of fiction, based on actual events, and its focus is Christine Collins, not Gordon Northcott. AFAIK, no-one ever claimed it was documentary.

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    • #3
      I just added the spoiler warning to the subject.

      Jan
      "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by James Jeffrey Paul View Post
        I'm thrilled that the movie is coming out, because it will really help sell my book. But I look forward to "setting the record straight" on the movie as more details on it come out.
        I can't help but wonder...why? The movie's not about Northcott at all, it's about Christine Collins and the ordeals she went through.

        Jan
        "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by James Jeffrey Paul View Post
          I just read the delightful interview with Clint Eastwood in the Guardian. Age hasn't thwarted the Man With No Name's aim or Dirty Harry's ability to shoot straight!

          http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview...283921,00.html

          ...

          I know that parts of the movie are heavily fictionalized, and as Gordon Stewart Northcott's biographer, I'm very curious as to what's true in the movie and what isn't.

          ...
          Originally posted by mandragora View Post
          Eastwood specifically requested the part about the Changeling being "a true story" to be taken out of the press release.

          It's a piece of fiction, based on actual events, and its focus is Christine Collins, not Gordon Northcott. AFAIK, no-one ever claimed it was documentary.
          There are elements of the film that for very practical reasons have to be fictionalized. For instance, Clint Eastwood admitted in his interview at the press conference at Cannes (audio, video) that radios do not come on as quickly as they do in Changeling. No one watching the film would be willing to wait the typical five minutes for tube-based radios to warm up, although the radios in Changeling do take a few seconds to warm up to indicate the essential truth without having the dramatic action grind to a halt. Regardless, Eastwood emphasized during the press conference and other interviews that he stayed as close to the facts of the case as practical since the events are so unbelievable.

          In ôCannes Film Festival - Interview With Changeling Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynskiö, JMS states:

          à

          Q: You inserted newspaper clippings from the story into the physical copies of the script. Why?

          A: The story is just so bizarre that you need something to remind you that I'm not making this stuff up. So it seemed important to me to put in those clippings because you reach the part of the story where you go, "Come on he's got to have gone off the rails with this." Turn the page and there is indeed an article confirming it, which is why, in terms of writing the script, I hued very close to the facts. The story is already extraordinary enough.

          Q: So did you take any liberties with the story when you were writing it?

          A: There are only two places in the entire script where I had to figure out what happened because there wasn't much in the public record. An example of that is [when Collins is committed to an insane] asylum -- there isn't a great deal in the record about what happened while she was there. There is some testimony given after the fact, but it's limited so I had to kind of extrapolate based on what was being done at hospitals in general at that time. But otherwise, it's pretty rigorous.

          Q: How did Clint Eastwood become involved?

          A: When I wrote the script, my agent got it to Ron Howard, who loved it. But his contract to do Frost/Nixon required that it be his first project, and he didn't want to have this thing sitting too long. So they sent it over to Clint, who loved it enormously. And Clint's funny -- if he likes it, he'll do it, that's the end of the discussion. When I met with him to ask, "Do you want any changes, do you want any things cut, added to, subtracted from, whatever," he said, "No. The draft is fine. Let's shoot the draft." To have someone like Clint Eastwood come along and shoot your first draft as written is just any screenwriter's dream. And Clint is very straightforward. If it's good enough to get his attention, it's good enough to produce.
          After reviewing many of the abstracts of the Los Angeles Times archives for the events it struck me that the LA Times was more of a tabloid newspaper than it is today. It appears that many of the accounts of the day were exaggerated or distorted to sell newspapers.

          I have been extremely interested in the Christine Collins case and in Gordon Stewart Northcott since finding out about Changeling in 2006. I plan to see Changeling on November 7, 2008 when it debuts (unless of course I can somehow afford to bribe JMS or Universal into getting me a ticket for the US premiere). I also plan to purchase your book when it comes available. Without access to the script and until I see the film and read your book, I can only rely on second hand information which I have found generally unreliable.

          I will be interested in seeing the differences between Changeling and the record of the day. However, in the final analysis, I will enjoy Changeling as a dramatization of historical events that has tried to stay as close to truth as practical.

          Sincerely,
          Dan Dassow

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          • #6
            Oh, of course I know that any film based on real events has to be dramatized to some (usually a very great) extent.

            Since I spent over 15 years on the book, I was just curious how much reality made it into the movie.

            I'm just a born pedant, I guess



            BTW, I have some very exciting news to tell you, but mustn't do so until it's official.

            Let's just say, Brad Pitt isn't as excited about the star of CHANGELING as I am about this news.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by James Jeffrey Paul View Post
              Oh, of course I know that any film based on real events has to be dramatized to some (usually a very great) extent.

              Since I spent over 15 years on the book, I was just curious how much reality made it into the movie.

              I'm just a born pedant, I guess



              BTW, I have some very exciting news to tell you, but mustn't do so until it's official.

              Let's just say, Brad Pitt isn't as excited about the star of CHANGELING as I am about this news.
              OK, when the news becomes official please share:
              (1) Publisher
              (2) Publication date
              (3) Expected date of publication
              (4) List price
              (5) ISBN
              (6) Tour locations and dates

              Comment


              • #8
                Oh, don't worry about that, Dan.

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