It may not be a subject that fans of the Beatles and John Lennon want to recall again, but the producers of new film, The Lennon Report, which opens Oct. 7, two days before what would have been the former Beatle’s 76th birthday, say the movie will finally tell the real story about what really happened the night Lennon was killed by a deranged fan on Dec. 8, 1980.
The film’s director and writer, Jeremy Profe, told Billboard the movie has an even simpler focus in that it looks at the roles that police and medical personnel played that night and how they worked to save the life of a man who they didn’t know at first was Lennon.
The story of the film revolves around a news producer in Roosevelt Hospital who discovers that a John Doe being treated for severe gunshot wounds in the facility at the same time is none other than John Lennon.
“It follows the everyday people that are affected by a tragedy and what their roles in that are,” Profe said in a phone interview. “Everybody kind of gets very focused on celebrity and on the names and the people, but really this is a story of doctors and nurses and journalists and police in their effort to save John Lennon. And so, one of the interesting things that happens when you look at the film, that story through that lens is you’ve got these everyday people becoming heroes.” The focus of the film is “really about the people behind the scenes that don’t get too much light shed on them,” said producer Gabriel Francisco.
“The film follows the surgical effort to save John’s life,” Profe adds. “You never see the shooting, but you see the aftermath as the police arrive. And it goes from there, to the hospital to the confusion of not knowing who this victim is, which I think is such an important part. He didn’t arrive as John Lennon. He arrived as John Doe. And these surgeons and nurses scrambled to save his life the same as they would anyone else. And then there is this phenomenal stranger-than-fiction story of Alan Weiss, this journalist, having been in a motorcycle accident that evening and he just happened to be there to break the story, the biggest story of the year.”
Beatles fans, who may fear that the film gives Lennon’s killer more celebrity attention may be relieved to know his name gets no mention in the film. “We really, really did not want to be a party to lending any more celebrity or credibility to a shooter,” Profe said. “We shouldn’t be helping people to market themselves through violence. So we were not going to be part of that.”
The filmmakers say they also had to be careful to how to film the scenes in the operating room. “We didn’t want a gore film,” said producer Rafael Francisco. “We had to find a very delicate balance between visually letting people understand what’s involved in a shooting and trying to make sure it didn’t become the John Lennon gore film and hitting that balance in the surgery,” said Profe.
But the script initially written for the film underwent a massive rewrite as the film’s team learned that much of what was thought to be the story of what happened in the hospital was not what really took place at all after talking to some of the personnel present. Profe said they wanted the script to be accurate. “We didn’t make a film about what didn’t happen in the room. It’s about what did happen in the room. The reason we came forward with the story was because in order for the truth to have any weight or credibility, people really needed to understand what happened.” One of the biggest revelations of the film is that Dr. David Halleran (played by Evan Jonigkeit), not Dr. Stephan Lynn (Richard Kind), performed the surgery on Lennon that night. Stephan Spinella plays Dr. Marks, who worked alongside Halleran.
One of the nurses who was in the the operating room that night, Barbara Kammerer, told Billboard, “They showed us the script basically that had no relevance to anything that occurred that night. And as we were speaking with them and bringing up certain things, they were looking at us as if we truly did not know what we were talking about. And they didn’t. And their version and our version was so grossly different it was almost a rewrite. I think Jeremy got more gray hair when more and more and more of the truth started coming out.” “And then we gave up Dr. David Halleran as the doctor that actually performed the surgery,” Deatra Sarto, another of the nurses, said. Stef Dawson and Ashley Atkinson play Kammerer and Sarto in the film.
Sarto explained the nurses originally had no idea it was Lennon when he was brought into the operating room. “He made no sounds,” Kammerer said. “He was basically D.O.A.,” said Sarto. “And we worked on him like we work on everybody. Young gentleman, multiple gunshot wounds. You don’t look at anybody’s face when they’re like that. You address the wound.”
Lennon’s identity was finally confirmed after searching his pockets. Sarto says among the items found was Lennon’s green card and other pieces of I.D. “Dr. Halleran has (also) reported there was a roll of undeveloped film, a picture of Yoko, Sean and John in front of a white Rolls-Royce and his American Express card,” Kammerer said.
The nurses said Yoko Ono (played In the film by Karen Tsen Lee) came in with the police and was escorted to a room so she would have some privacy. Another story refuted in the movie is that Yoko Ono banged her head against a concrete floor that night. The two nurses say that didn’t happen.
“The floor, to begin with, wasn’t cement,” said Sarto. “And Stephan (Lynn) was not in the room long enough to observe anything at all. We walked into together and she said, ‘Please tell me he’s OK.’ And Stephan said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t tell you that.’ And he turned around and walked out. The doctor, who’s taking credit for everything never even spent 60 seconds with her. He just announced he was dead and he left the room.” Ono, in response to an interview done by Fox News’ Howard Kurtz about the new revelations contained in the film, said her priority was to get home to her son Sean.
Profe said he is very much aware that Beatles fans are concerned about how the film portrays Lennon and the incidents of that tragic night. “This is the best effort we could possibly make to tackle this subject respectfully to the family, to the fans, respectfully to the people involved,” he said. “And I think we’ve hit that chord.”