If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman, was born, and what his lousy childhood was like, and how his parents were occupied and all before they had him, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but Jared Leto doesn’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
Instead, the Chapman biopic “Chapter 27″ — which finally gets a release after premiering at last year’s Sundance Film Festival — takes a hyperfocused approach in telling its story, centering on a three-day period that ends with the murder of Lennon on December 8, 1980.
For Chapman, those three days were mostly spent in quiet psychosis, his troubled mind fixated on the J.D. Salinger novel “Catcher in the Rye” and its protagonist, Holden Caulfield. (In fact, the title of the film references the fact that there are 26 chapters in the book.)
“The parallel that the writer, Jarrett Schaefer, made with the three days that Mark spent in New York and the three days that Holden Caulfield [spent] from a Friday to Monday — there were so many similarities,” Leto said.
Indeed, short of a murder (which appears nowhere in the “Catcher” text), many of those similarities were deliberate and planned, as Chapman sought to re-create several experiences from the book in his final days before the shooting. He had a copy of the novel on him when captured, inside of which he wrote simply, “This is my statement.”
For avid readers of the book — essentially anyone who went to an American high school — it’s a somewhat bizarre statement, especially considering that Holden tells his story from the confines of a mental hospital, where he is placed after he suffers a nervous breakdown in the book’s final pages. To call “Catcher” your “statement” might amount to a confession saying, “I am severely mentally ill.” That was certainly true for Chapman, Leto said, calling the novel “the quintessential essay on the ultimate outsider.”
Holden, of course, is an outsider wherever he goes, unwelcome in either the adult world or the world of children, and indeed, his great fear repeated throughout the book is that he is turning invisible. According to Chapman’s own admission, he personally sympathized with this aspect of the character.
“Someone that was obsessed and sick like Mark was able to find different things in the book that spoke to him in different ways,” Leto said. “Mark had a love for this book that ran deep and coursed through his veins, and it was in his heart and his mind and it filled every single part of him.”
It’s a journey Leto himself made in an effort to empathize with the character, reasoning that learning about the experiences of Caulfield would give him a real window into the experiences of Chapman. Leto admitted that in preparation, he read the novel “more than I’ve ever read any book in my life — probably one time too many,” he laughed.
“One of the things that I did in preparation was I kind of went on this Holden Caulfield journey as well — through New York, through those three days, through the hotels,” he confessed. “Throughout shooting, [I thought] the book was the Bible.”
That makes two of them.
Also starring Lindsay Lohan, “Chapter 27″ hit theaters in Los Angeles on Friday.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Chapter 27.”
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