It’s 1959. Two men face major turning points in their lives: one is in Washington, D.C., preparing to announce his presidential candidacy, while the other is at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, renouncing his American citizenship. Two seemingly unrelated occurrences, starting both on a cataclysmic track that would alter the course of history. National Geographic Channel’s Killing Kennedy, produced by Scott Free Productions and based on the best-selling book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, chronicles this buildup to one of America’s most shocking events: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald.
Starring Rob Lowe (President John F. Kennedy) and Will Rothhaar (Lee Harvey Oswald), with Michelle Trachtenberg (Marina Oswald) and Ginnifer Goodwin (Jacqueline Kennedy), the film charts the highs and lows of two men and two relationships that would eventually intersect with two shocking deaths that stunned a nation.
The historical details of what happened on the day of Kennedy’s assassination, and the shocking days that followed, are well known to millions. Now, Killing Kennedy will take audiences deeper inside the story than ever before by examining the events that led both men to Dallas on that fateful day in November 1963, and by offering a rare and human look at the people at the center of it all.
“JFK was so much more than I think people realize,” says Lowe. “My goal was to play a husband, a father, a brother, a man with a big job who loved and was funny, and smart, and charming, and flawed, and inspired.”
Added Goodwin, “The intimacy and revealing nature of this film, and the captivating narrative, really inspired me.”
Lee Harvey Oswald remains one of American history’s most infamous figures, but one few know much about. Killing Kennedy will reveal Oswald as more than just a two-dimensional villain, but as a troubled man who wanted nothing more than for someone to take notice of him — a wish he saw granted for fewer than 48 hours before meeting his own spectacular and untimely demise.
“The Oswald story is something no one has really told before,” says Rothhaar. “I think there are a lot of things about Lee that people are going to be surprised by, or even relate to, in this movie.”
“Many people aren’t even aware Lee had a wife,” says Trachtenberg, who speaks entirely in Russian in the film. “The film’s illumination of Marina and their marriage helps reveal Lee as more than just a monster.”
Killing Kennedy pits John F. Kennedy (Lowe) and Lee Harvey Oswald (Rothhaar) as the polar opposites they were, charting their respective paths toward their infamous mutual date with destiny. While the aristocratic Kennedy ascends to the world’s ultimate seat of power, Oswald seeks his own place in the world by looking to make a name for himself as a former U.S. Marine defecting to Russia. His delusions of grandeur are soon replaced by the harsh and cold realities of factory work in the remote and unforgiving Minsk winter, and he returns to the United States with his new Russian wife, Marina (Trachtenberg). Settling in Texas, the Oswalds start a family and Lee finds a Communist cause much closer to home in the geopolitically charged hotbed that is Cuba at the dawn of the 1960s.
Like Oswald, President Kennedy’s attention, and a major part of his legacy, would also be focused on the small Caribbean island just off the Florida coast — home to arguably his greatest failure and his crowning achievement. From the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion to the steely resolve that helped pull the world back from the brink of nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Killing Kennedy will provide a look inside the key political moments that helped forge the president into the leader he was. At the same time, the film looks behind the curtain of the Kennedy legend to reveal the man himself, with glimpses at intimate moments including the devastating loss of infant son Patrick, his remarkable relationship and collaboration with his brother and Attorney General Bobby Kennedy (Noseworthy), his widely-reported infidelities, and the enduringly fascinating and complicated love he shared with his wife Jackie (Goodwin).
As the Kennedy mystique grows, Oswald fades further and further from relevance, trying and failing to follow his ideological heart to Cuba and growing increasingly agitated at the government’s treatment of the situation there. His membership in pro-Cuba organizations draws the attention of the FBI, whose agents ultimately dismiss him as harmless. Meanwhile, his volatile temper is costing him jobs and much more, as Marina and their two young children seek part-time refuge in the home of a friend. Oswald’s desperation grows and escalates to violence in the form of another assassination attempt — a precursor to the plan that would ultimately ensure that the world would finally know his name.
On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, Oswald rides to his job at the Texas Schoolbook Depository with a co-worker. He carries a long brown paper bag that he says carries curtain rods. Across town, Secret Service and local authorities are making final preparations for a parade though a city that seems increasingly hostile toward the president.
At 12:30 p.m., shots ring out. And while one man earns his elusive and ill-gotten glory, a nation loses its leader and its innocence. Later that evening, the world would get its first look at Lee Harvey Oswald; less than 48 hours later it would get its last, as Oswald’s own assassination is broadcast live to a grieving nation.
“JFK represented so much not just to me, but to all of us,” Lowe said. “And to be able to embody his story as part of this amazing project on the 50th anniversary of his death was an exciting, humbling, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Killing Kennedy will premiere in 171 countries and in 38 languages to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.
Don’t miss the global television event this Sunday, November 10 at 8P.