Kennedys Miniseries Wasn't Only Project Family Helped Kill
A new profile details the behind-the-scenes maneuvering made by one of America’s political dynasties to protect their family legacy.
In January, The Hollywood Reporter detailed the behind-the-scenes moves that Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver made to help stop the miniseries about their family from airing on the History Channel.
It wasn't the first project the Kennedys quietly killed to preserve their family's legacy, reveals Richard Bradley in Boston magazine. Bradley details how the family covertly got his publisher to drop a planned book about John F. Kennedy Jr., with whom he had become close while working as an editor at Kennedy's magazine, George.
"I admired John and wanted to write something that would reflect that. But within weeks, sleazy, false and untraceable rumors started popping up in mainstream media outlets, while behind-closed-door efforts were launched to sabotage a book that hadn’t even been written. Within months, both my career and my reputation were in tatters," writes Bradley.
(If you didn't submit to the Kennedys' wishes, Bradley writes, you were iced out, such as when historian William Manchester revealed too many details about the Kennedys' lives in a book about JFK's assassination and Jackie Kennedy told his Harper & Row editor, Evan Thomas, "I'm going to ruin you." Later, Jackie refused to speak to onetime friend and Washington Post head Ben Bradlee for printing a book that included his prolific profanity.)
Boston magazine details the "hit job" against the miniseries beginning in early 2010, when documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald got his hands on a script and created a website called stopkennedysmears.com — accusing the filmmakers of character assassination.
Shortly after, the New York Times' Dave Itzkoff wrote a front-page story about how controversial the miniseries was — leading History execs to become skittish about the project, Bradley alleges.
“We were in the middle of writing the shows when we got the word that we needed to make sure there wasn’t a single frame of film that didn’t meet the highest historical standard,” said the miniseries' producer Joel Surnow. “Everything had to be pretty much double-sourced by very specific scholarly writers. There was the concern that now that we’re actually here [with eight scripts in development], we have to make sure we’re bulletproof historically.”
“We went through draft after draft until we got every script approved,” Surnow added. "[Historian] Steve Gillon signed off on all the scripts.” Added script scribe Steve Kronish, “We would not have been able to film these episodes had the scripts not been signed off on.”
But lawyer Gary Ginsberg, a Kennedy confidant, called reporters off the record, claiming to have seen the miniseries and calling it a "piece of trash," according to Boston magazine.
Soon after, History dropped the series, saying it was "not a fit" for the brand. Two weeks later, Itzkoff reported in the New York Times of "an unsuccessful yearlong effort to bring the miniseries in line with the historical record.”
Snapped back Surnow: "The story of why they killed it is not true. That is a lie. It had nothing to do with historical accuracy … I am sure the Kennedy family went as high up the ladder as they could to influence people to do their bidding for them. I think it happened.”
The Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear starrer went on to earn record ratings for ReelzChannel when it aired in April.
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