The latest adaptation of a Bill O’Reilly “Killing” book, Killing Reagan, premiers October 16 on National Geographic Channel. The previous films, Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, and Killing Jesus were the three most-watched films in the history of National Geographic.
When Ronald Reagan was shot on March 30, 1981, he was only six blocks from the National Geographic Headquarters. While this is not the reason for the collaboration between the National Geographic Channel and Bill O’Reilly, it adds a little factoid to this particular project.
Playing President Reagan is Tim Matheson, who grew up in front of the camera. As a child actor he played in films like Yours, Mine, and Ours and appeared on many TV series, like “The Virginian,” and even “Bonanza” in which he played the newest member of The Ponderosa. He was also in the hit film 1978 film Animal House.
Nancy Reagan is played by Cynthia Nixon who is most remembered as Miranda Hobbes in “Sex and the City.” Nixon also spent much of her younger life on screen, in other films and TV shows. She appeared in the 1980 film Little Darlings starring Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol.
To prepare for their latest roles, both actors researched their characters. Nixon read a lot of books. Matheson said he “listened endlessly to his voice and his tapes … and tried to bring that from the inside.” He didn’t want to mimic the president, however.
Nixon said, “It’s a rich well to draw from that the fact that you have photographs of them, you have recorded footage of them, you have things that they have actually written.” All these things went into her preparation.
So how much input did Bill O’Reilly have in the actual filming of this movie? He went to one day of filming but mainly let the cast and crew do their thing. According to Executive Producer David Zucker, “He’s enormously supportive and enthusiastic. I mean, he does read the draft after we go through the development process with National Geographic, and he will review the cuts and give his thoughts. He likes to, sort of, touch base with all of the principals as we go through the process, but he’s not intrusive in any way. He really expresses his concerns, may put forward a few things that he would like for us to keep in mind through the process. But, obviously, he’s been an enormous support once the picture is being released.”
Director Rod Lurie described O’Reilly’s visit to their Georgia location shoot. “We were shooting that famous scene where Al Haig says, ‘I’m in control here.’ And so that means that we had a pressroom filled with 40 or 50 extras. They were all from Georgia. And so Bill just sauntered in there, all six foot ten of him, whatever he is, and it was as if a combination of the Beatles and God had walked into the room,” Lurie stated with wonder. “I mean, they absolutely adored him. And for the first time, I was able to understand with my own eyes the incredible power that – ‘power’ is the wrong word – the incredible influence that he has and how so many people really, really do love him.”
Lurie admitted he is not a Fox News watcher, but added, “I’m beginning to understand what – he’s a very magnetic guy. He’s full of charisma, and I will say that whenever I spent time with him in person or on the phone, I felt I was in his show, you know. He is exactly that person. He is not faking it.”