Toronto: 'Parkland' cast talks 'eerie' scenes

05:00 AM, Sep 07, 2013

Paul Giamatti, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron and Colin Hanks pose at TIFF. Larry Busacca Getty Images/


Written By by Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY

TORONTO — History is already a hit at the film fest here, with a schedule that includes 12 Years a Slave, Rush, Devil’s Knot and Dallas Buyers Club.

But Parkland (out Oct. 4), a deep dive into the day JFK died, will surprise you. The Texas-set story vacillates between multiple perspectives over three days following the president’s death. The camera moves swiftly, from the ER doctors (Zac Efron, Colin Hanks) trying to save JFK at Parkland Hospital to the brother (James Badge Dale) and mother (Jacki Weaver) of Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong).

Just hours before Parkland’s premiere here, Hanks, Efron and Paul Giamatti, who portrays Abraham Zapruder, the shell-shocked bystander who caught the assassination on his Super 8 camera, gather at a table in a private dining room at the InterContinenal Hotel.

The first day of this movie was my first day on Dealey Plaza. That’s an eerie place anyway,” says Giamatti. “I had to stand up on the thing (Zapruder) stood on, and I had to shout the stuff he shouted. It was odd. It was definitely creepy. It felt out-of-body and strange.”

The goal of Parkland, says Hanks, was to “tell the stories of those people that were on the outer edges of the story that were greatly affected, but are not necessarily the first people you think about when you tell the story.”

It was hugely educational for me,” says Efron, whose character must try and save Oswald’s life just two days after losing the president. “I knew very little about this day. For me, it’s always been shrouded in a lot of mystery and various conspiracy theories. It was nice to see a succinct telling of what really happened on this particular day.”

Parkland, co-produced by Hanks’ father, Tom (long-known as “a history buff,” as the son reminds), and Bill Paxton, was shot documentary-style. Improvisation during long takes was encouraged.

In an early scene, Efron’s more inexperienced character refuses to accept the president’s death and continues to try to pump his heart.

It was a strange scene, he says. “The (actor) looked just like the president, just like JFK. There’s one scene I swear I must have broken his ribs while I was resuscitating him.”

We were seriously concerned about breaking this guy’s ribs,” says Hanks. “We had to give compressions for like an hour. My shoulders got incredibly sore.”

Not to mention their fears about the required medical verbiage. “It was a whole lot of ‘Nurse, get me gauze! We need more of that! Bring that in!’ ” recalls Hanks.

People spoke a certain way back then,” says Efron. “Half the words in my vernacular are out the window: “Dude, we’re losing him! Dude, it’s the president, bro!’ “