HBO Comes to Oakland to Film Kevorkian Movie

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Home Box Office filmmakers for the Jack Kevorkian biopic "You Don't Know Jack" will be in town this week to film scenes for the movie already in production in New York City.

Both interior and exterior shots are planned at the Oakland Circuit courthouse off Telegraph Road in Pontiac, where the former pathologist, now 81 years old, was a frequent visitor in the years before being sentenced to prison in 1999 for second-degree murder in one of 130 deaths he claims to have assisted over a decade.

Actors Al Pacino, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon are just a few of the film's stars expected to be in town, according to Kevorkian attorney and friend Mayer Morganroth. Goodman is to portray Kevorkian's friend, Neal Nicol, and Sarandon will take the role of Janet Good, a right-to-die advocate and former head of the Michigan Hemlock Society, who befriended Kevorkian and also died with his help.

Pacino has the lead role of Kevorkian, but don't look for him and the man who became known as "Dr. Death" getting together during the shoot, Morganroth said.

"Pacino doesn't even want to meet Jack until the filming is done on this project," said Morganroth, a consultant on the film. Like several other principals close to the Kevorkian story, he will be interviewed for a behind-the-scenes "making of" the film expected to be released sometime next year.

Courthouse filming is expected to be shot Thursday and Friday. And for some who were around when Kevorkian made headlines here in the 1990s, the scene may be like travelling back in time.

In some of his last court appearances, the outspoken and always irascible Kevorkian strolled past sign-toting critics and supporters dressed in colonial-style garb, wig and even slipped his arms through a set of fake wooden stocks, a common punishment for running afoul of the law in the 1700s. It is expected Pacino may don some of the same type of paraphernalia for the film, directed by Barry Levinson, whose resume includes the Academy Award-winning "Rain Man."

Filming is also expected to take place at other Oakland County locations, including near places where Kevorkian lived and created his self-proclaimed "Mercitron" (assisted suicide machine) and where some of the assisted suicides occurred.

Kevorkian served eight years of a 10-to-25-year sentence and was paroled in June 2007 for good behavior. Jessica Cooper -- the judge who sentenced him with a terse "no one is above the law" and "consider yourself stopped" -- became the county's prosecutor earlier this year.

"I've had a conversation with the film's screenwriter, as has (assistant prosecuting attorney) John Skrzynski, who handled the case," said Cooper. "We've both been given the impression it will be balanced, and I guess we will just have to see. I can't think of anyone better than Pacino playing him."


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