First Look At Parkland

Billy Bob Thornton & Zac Efron get swept up in JFK's death

It's a week for actors togged up in period gear. Yesterday brought the initial glimpse at Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and the rest in David O. Russell’s American Hustle, and today it’s the turn of Billy Bob Thornton, Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti and more in Parkland, courtesy of USA Today.

Written and directed by Peter Landesman, the film takes a famous event – in this case the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 23, 1963 – and digs down into the details to find the people who were affected by the traumatic event.

They include Thornton as Forrest Sorrells, the head of Dallas’s Secret Service branch, who took the shooting personally. "The Secret Service had never lost a man, and they lost their man," Thornton tells the paper. "He felt bound and determined to find out what happened immediately while he was going through the worst time in his life. He felt completely responsible."

The story follows a dying Kennedy rushed into hospital, with a rookie doctor (Efron) having to work on him alongside a chief nurse (Marcia Gay Harden). They were told the president would be on the way, but not why. "No-one was prepared for what was coming. They thought the president had the flu," says Landesman. Then there’s Abraham Zapruder (Giamatti), the witness who happened to be filming the motorcade as it came past, resulting in one of the most famous recordings ever put on film. "That 26 seconds of film changed his life and all of our lives forever," explains the director. "It's the most examined and investigated piece of celluloid in the history of film."

While Landesman isn’t focusing on the traditionally conspiracy-minded investigation of the shooting, he is hoping it leads to discussion. "No-one is putting together any kind of puzzle here. They're just surviving. But the film will open up a new avenue of debate. And a healthy one." Parkland will be out in the US on September 20 and arrives here on November 8, a couple of weeks before the 50th anniversary of the incident.