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The Link Between Bill Paxton, John F. Kennedy and the Movie ‘Parkland’

Variety logo Variety 2/26/2017 Dave McNary
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Bill Paxton, the beloved and prolific actor who died after complications from surgery, played a key role in the 2013 movie “Parkland.”

The movie deals with the events leading up to the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Paxton was a producer on the film, along with Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Matt Jackson and Nigel Sinclair.

The beginning of “Parkland” is set during Paxton’s boyhood. He was 8 years old when he joined his older brother and father to watch Kennedy give a speech in Fort Worth outside the Hotel Texas, just two hours before the assassination.

In 2007, Paxton saw photos of himself on a man’s shoulders on display at an event at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and subsequently purchased a copy of Vincent Bugliosi’s “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” which documents the chaos that ensued at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital after Kennedy was rushed there and later pronounced dead.

That led Paxton to suggest to Hanks at a Los Angeles Dodgers game that he should make a film based on Bugliosi’s 2007 book. The project was first set up at HBO as a miniseries then as an independent feature with Peter Landesman directing from his own script.

“Parkland” had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and North American debut at the Toronto Film Festival in 2013 — corresponding with the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death.

On Sunday, as news of Paxton’s passing broke, Texas Supreme Court Judge Don Willett shared the photo and called Paxton a “good guy, great actor, and proud Texan.”

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