HBO’s Phil Spector Movie Warns: Not Really ‘Based On A True Story’

The upcoming HBO drama Phil Spector, set around the 1993 trial in which “Wall of Sound” producer Phil Spector was charged with the murder of Lana Clarkson, quickly shies away from any claim to factuality. The film’s opening card reads, “This is a work of fiction. It’s not ‘based on a true story.’”

The film, which stars Al Pacino as Spector, concedes that the characters in it are based on real people of the same name, but insists that the conversations and scenes in the film do not attempt to recreate the real-life events that occurred throughout the trial. This is out of both legal and creative necessity.

Specifying that the film, which premieres Saturday (March 24), is not based on a true story does two things for both HBO and director David Mamet. First, it frees HBO from any legal obligation that comes with the usual “based on a true story” claims; second, it frees Mamet and his creative team from any criticism they may face about the veracity of the events shown in the film.

“The point of the disclaimer is not to change anybody’s minds. It’s to suggest a legal position,” Mamet told entertainment industry blog The Wrap. “Listen, this is not going to cause anybody to put aside their intellect any more than ‘based on a true story’ would. They’re still going to look at the thing on its own merits.”


The disclaimer is especially important because the film focuses on conversations between Spector and his attorney, Linda Kenney Biden, played by Helen Mirren. Biden served as a consultant on the film, but, because of binding attorney-client privilege, couldn’t disclose exact details of the conversations she and Spector shared throughout the trial.

Insisting that the film doesn’t attempt factuality hasn’t shielded it from picky criticism, though, and friends of Lana Clarkson have gone so far as to complain that her name was mispronounced throughout the film.

Regardless of whether the disclaimer protects Mamet or HBO from legal or creative attacks, the ability to prioritize entertainment over truth has most likely made Phil Spector more enjoyable than the word-for-word transcripts of Spector and Biden’s backstage conversations would have been.

– Shane Barnes,


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