November 29th, 2010

John Lennon’s last days examined in new CNN documentary

Losing Lennon – Countdown to Murder Debuts Saturday, Dec. 4 at 8:00pm ET & PT on CNN/U.S.

“I wanted to kill him,” said Mark David Chapman, eerily describing in simple, shocking language his urge to murder former Beatle John Lennon, in a never-before-aired audio recording, included in a new CNN documentary. Losing Lennon – Countdown to Murder premieres on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 8:00pm, near the 30th anniversary of Lennon’s assassination. The documentary will also air on CNN International in December.

On December 8, 1980, Chapman shot Lennon four times in front of the Dakota, Lennon’s Manhattan apartment building. Chapman had apparently considered murdering Elizabeth Taylor or Johnny Carson, as well as other celebrities, but seemed to conclude that Lennon, who spoke often about enjoying the freedom of living openly in New York City, was more publicly accessible.

It was a tragic ending to what CNN anchor John Roberts describes as an optimistic period in Lennon’s life. Lennon had only recently emerged from a nearly five-year period of reclusion. Seemingly frustrated by fame, Lennon had retreated from celebrity, immersing himself into life as a self-described house-husband and stay-at-home dad for his young son, Sean. That summer and fall, Lennon had returned to recording and producing, and seemed to be reaching out to his eldest son, Julian, whom he’d virtually abandoned as a young boy when he left the U.K. to tour with the Beatles.

Roberts’ sensitive reporting interweaves Lennon family footage with rare interviews with Julian Lennon and Yoko Ono as they discuss Lennon’s life in New York and how they learned about Lennon’s death. Roberts also interviews childhood friends of Chapman, police on the scene as well as the rescue and medical team who frantically tried to save Lennon’s life.

Piecing together the fateful meeting of the music icon and his murderer, Roberts also speaks with Jim Gaines, the first journalist to interview Chapman, during hundreds of hours with him at Attica prison. Gaines also had rare, unprecedented access to Chapman’s family friends, lawyers and psychologists. Also included is exclusive file audio of Gaines’ interview with Chapman’s wife speaking about the life together prior to the murder.

“He had a whole population of little people living in his head – to whom he gave instructions, who had meetings about what his activities should be…it was extreme,” Gaines says, describing the killer’s chilling internal fantasy life.

Melissa Dunst Lipman is the senior producer of Losing Lennon. Julie O’Neill is a producer on the special. Bud Bultman is managing editor for this production. Scott Matthews is the director of CNN’s Special Investigations and Documentaries unit.