The Killing Kennedy cast felt the weight of the historic characters they were portraying while filming the new movie about one of the most traumatic and pivotal days in American history.
We all know the story of what happened on November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie visited Dallas, Texas.
Many movies have been made about the fateful day, but no previous film explored the life of the reputed killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, in such detail.
Killing Kennedy explores Oswald’s dealings before, during, and after the President’s killing like never before.
During the production, the cast felt the weight of the circumstances they were portraying while playing one of the best known historical events.
Rob Lowe, who plays President Kennedy, was struck to see a replica of the open top limousine Kennedy was shot in parked in front of his trailer.
“Picture your stomach rolling over and having butterflies,” Lowe recalls in his trailer a few days later, according to USA Today. “Apparently it must have been written all over my face because one of the producers came up behind me and said, ‘Are you OK?’ I was like, ‘Uh oh. Busted.'”
According to Killing Kennedy’s script writer Kelly Masterson, the movie is not just about Kennedy, but looks at Oswald (Will Rothhaar) and his wife Marina (Michelle Trachtenberg) in deeper detail.
“It’s one of the great mysteries of history — we just don’t really know what was in his head,” Masterson says. “He was such a loner and so closed off, he didn’t even really talk to his wife about it. But that’s where the dramatist comes in.”
In portraying Oswald, Rothhaar researched all available information available on the infamous character, from reading books to watching videos on YouTube.
“What it boils down to, at least in my opinion, is that he just wanted somebody to notice him, to ask him about his day,” Rothhaar says. “That’s all he was looking for and just never got it.”
As to Marina Oswald, Trachtenberg says she wanted to honor one of the last survivors directly related to the Kennedy assassination.
The actress also wanted to capture the mindset of the Russian woman who had a dream when she came to America, one that died too soon.
For Masterson, who was a child when Kennedy was shot, writing the motorcade scene was “spooky”.
“I felt like a second-grader out on the playground being told to pray for the man who had just been shot.”
Ginnifer Goodwin, who plays Jackie Kennedy, says the former First Lady blacked out from trauma almost instantly.
“When shown footage of what she had done, she couldn’t relate at all to it,” Goodwin says. “What they did find later was that, in crawling over the back of the car immediately after that third bullet hit, she was going after a piece of his head that was rolling off the back of the car. She had a primal instinct to put him back together again.”
Filming the assassination scene on the limousine prompted Goodwin to say how stupid it was for the First Couple to be riding in an open top car. Of course, everything is different in hindsight, and at that time no one could imagine somebody wanting to assassinate the President of the United States.
Rob Lowe says doing such a scene is “unplayable” for any actor put in that situation.
“You just have to be that man in that moment in that life. And in that moment of life, he was very happy.”
The Kennedy assassination changed everything for a generation, and for people who weren’t around in those days, the only thing to compare it to is the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. That loss of innocence, when the unthinkable happens and changes everything.
“I lived through the sadness of Jack. I never got to live through the promise and the happiness,” Rob Lowe says. “I think that’s why when I think about him, I’m so sad. I didn’t get to see the greatness.”
Killing Kennedy, based on Bill O’Reilly’s book of the same name, will air on the National Geographic channel on Sunday, November 10, at 8pm ET/PT.