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Phil Spector's not guilty, says David Mamet

June 17, 2011 |  7:44 am

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Never mind that a jury sent him to prison for murder in the second degree; Phil Spector's not guilty, says writer David Mamet. “I don’t think he’s guilty. I definitely think there is reasonable doubt,” he told the Financial Times.

The FT caught up with the Pulitzer prize-winning playwright in New York, where Mamet was prepping for an upcoming HBO movie about Phil Spector's trial that he's written and will direct. “They should never have sent him away," Mamet told the FT. "Whether he did it or not, we’ll never know but if he’d just been a regular citizen, they never would have indicted him.”

"It" was the murder of Lana Clarkson, an actress who was working at the House of Blues when she went home with Spector in the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 2003. She wound up dead of a gunshot wound in the foyer of his Alhambra home.

The HBO film is slated to star Al Pacino as Spector and Bette Midler as his attorney, Linda Kenney Baden -- which probably mean it will focus on his first trial, in 2007. Hope this isn't a spoiler: it ended in a mistrial, with a hung jury. Spector was retried and convicted of murder in the second degree in 2009.

A group called The Friends of Lana Clarkson sent a letter to Mamet's representative regarding his statements, L.A. Now reports. "This film may be a valentine for a convicted murderer and 40-year gun abuser," it reads in part.

Friends of the deceased actress aren't the only people Mamet has risked offending lately. His book "The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture" trumpets Mamet's new conservative ideas; in it, he calls himself a "reformed liberal." In our review of the book, David L. Ulin writes:

Among his targets: liberal education, the New Deal, Al Sharpton, global warming, "Obamacare" and the bailout of the auto industry. If such a list sounds familiar, that's because the bulk of it is made of Fox News talking points, generalities equating liberalism with socialism and framing it as venal, lazy, anti-American — a children's crusade with no understanding of realpolitik.

"Liberalism is a religion," Mamet writes in a typically unsupported statement. "Its tenets cannot be proved, its capacity for waste and destruction demonstrated." But as to what this means, he remains vague and imprecise....

For Mamet, the fact that "[t]he young on the Westside of Los Angeles dress themselves in jeans worn, sanded, and razored to resemble something a six-month castaway might crawl ashore in" is an expression not of the idiocy of style but of "a charade of victimization, as the ethos of the Liberal West holds that these victims are the only ones of worth." His critique of affirmative action relies on a dismissal of race — "When," he asks, "was the last time you heard a racist remark or saw racial discrimination at school or work?"

Mamet may have a gift for making strong statements -- he won his Pulitzer Prize for the sharp-tongued play "Glengarry Glen Ross." But in his film, will he conflating some of his own ideas with Spector's? Mamet told the Financial Times, “He [the Spector character] talks a lot about Lawrence [of Arabia]. He loved Lawrence. Either he loved him or I do, I can’t remember. He says in the film Lawrence wanted the one thing that he couldn’t have, which was privacy. He simply wanted to be by himself. Did that make him a monster?”

RELATED:

Book review: The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture

Dominick Dunne's literary legacy

Meghan Daum on David Mamet

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: left, Phil Spector in court in 2005. Credit: Associated Press Photos. Right, David Mamet at opening night of "A Life in the Theatre" in 2010. Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

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