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The Columbine shootings continue to "inspire" Hollywood

Thirteen years and a hundred school shootings later, why is Hollywood still obsessed with this one?

It stung, he says, that people think the project is just about money, as if anything dealing with Columbine is a guaranteed blockbuster. He spent the better part of ten years researching his book and challenging the core myths about the attack — for example, that Harris and Klebold were out to kill jocks — but most major publishers weren't interested. Even after the book won rave reviews, major studios passed on the idea of a feature-film adaptation.

"It was this project nobody wanted to do, based on this very dark material," he says. "People who think it's a moneymaker, I would love for them to go to Hollywood and have that conversation with the studios that said no."

After some high-profile industry names became attached to the proposal — writer/director Tommy O'Haver (An American Crime) and producers Michael DeLuca (Moneyball, The Social Network) and Christine Vachon and Pam Koffler (Boys Don't Cry) — Lifetime became interested in it as a "prestige project," something to help change the network's image.

"I was leaning all the time toward doing it as a miniseries on TV," Cullen says. "You can tell a much more involved story that way."

Cullen expects to have considerable input into the adaptation, which he says will give due attention to survivors' stories as well as that of the killers. He doesn't anticipate that the miniseries will inspire copycats, because the "actual" Harris and Klebold, stripped of their mythologies, "are pretty unappealing." For economy's sake, the script may contain composite characters on the periphery of the story, but the intent is to tell a true story: "It's definitely all real names, real people, keeping it as real as possible."

Yet it's precisely the assertion of the project's authenticity that most troubles its opponents. In the Columbine community, Cullen's book is widely regarded not as the definitive account of the massacre and its aftermath, but one version of it, with its own biases and questionable interpretations. The second chapter portrays Harris as a chick magnet, an assertion based largely on the account of one reputed girlfriend whom police investigators concluded wasn't credible; several people who knew the killers well believe both Harris and Klebold died as virgins. ("Right now I'm trying to get fucked and trying to finish off these time bombs," Harris wrote two weeks before the attack.) It's one thread in a larger dispute some readers have with Cullen's work — which, in their view, downplays the role of bullying and other factors in its efforts to portray Harris as a well-integrated psychopath and Klebold as his depressed, rejected follower.

It's doubtful that even the most nuanced version of the killers' motives would satisfy all camps. Harris and Klebold offered contradictory explanations for their hatred and despair. They were filled with rage over perceived slights from family members and the "bitches" who rejected them, but they also believed they had "evolved one step above you fucking human shit." They offered ample warning signs of their intentions because they suspected, correctly, that almost no one was paying attention. They disparaged religion but clung to a hope that they would somehow be able to enjoy their dead-celebrity status. They pursued their apocalyptic plot for months, with the monomania of terrorists, even as their lives seemingly improved, yet they were adept at blaming others for their isolation and contempt for the whole world. "I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things," Harris wrote in the final, self-pitying entry in his journal. That's not an explanation — just another expression of long-nurtured grievances by an angry, deeply delusional teenager.

A few of Cullen's most vocal critics say they don't trust his book because he relies so heavily on sources among law enforcement and school officials, including Jefferson County lead investigator Kate Battan, FBI agent Dwayne Fuselier (whose psychological analysis of the killers Cullen presents as if handed down from Mount Sinai) and principal Frank DeAngelis — people whom Columbine families accused of misleading them or providing self-serving accounts. Although Cullen deals in a roundabout way with the police cover-up concerning prior investigations of the killers and their blunders on the day of the attack, he also describes the Jeffco commanders — several of whom lied outright to the media and the victims' families — as "essentially honest men," and he makes a point of proclaiming that Battan "was clean."

"He was working with Battan and Fuselier to make the police look good," says Brian Rohrbough, who fought in court for years to establish that the official account of how his son Danny died outside the school was wrong. "He glosses over the cover-up as if it's an incidental thing."

When Columbine was published, three years ago, Rohrbough and other parents were incensed to learn that Oprah Winfrey was going to feature the author, along with Battan and Fuselier, on a show marking the tenth anniversary of the shootings. Contacted by a producer for photos of his son, Rohrbough suggested that Winfrey was making a terrible mistake.

"I said, 'I'd be happy to pay for my own plane ticket and be part of this,'" he recalls. "'If you're going to put these liars on, someone needs to be there to refute them.' She was horrified."

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19 comments
Guest
Guest

Great article dealing with all sides of a very controversial subject. Once again, Alan Prendregast helps sets the story straight(er) on the Columbine tragedy.

Payton_vege
Payton_vege

Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

craighorman
craighorman

When I read about it — I don't know if furious is the right word, but I was intensely emotional. craighorman

Greg Reck
Greg Reck

I thought the research that went into Cullen's book was exceptional; however, I do agree with the notion that he does overdramatize some of the sections with fragmentary evidence.

Don't get me wrong, I sympathize with the families and friends of the Columbine community whose lives are going to be portrayed for a movie. However, like most Hollywood movies that are centered on true events, there is bound to be vast misinterpretations that anyone who has read 'Columbine' (especially the criticism of Cullen book) will recognize these flaws.

I might be wrong, but I think the purpose of this film is not to immortalize Klebold and Harris but instead to shed light on the community's response to the tragedy. There is still a lot to be learned from what happened that day, and hopefully this film will cause school administrators across the country to revaluate their security measures. And God willing our crooked politicians will outlaw the sale of firearms for recreational purposes. The film can also bring attention to the causes of Klebold and Harris' rampage for a generation of students who were too young to remember Columbine, like myself.

Sarahtanderson
Sarahtanderson

This whole this is just disgusting. I don't care if the have a script ready or not. This whole "project" is just completely wrong.

Economic Warfare Ins
Economic Warfare Ins

Along with that our JROTC was bad arses and where well prepared with the flag polls and the whole school used to have to go to see the home coming show where ROTC showed off their I will kick your butt skills with a flag poll.

Economic Warfare Ins
Economic Warfare Ins

That is the way it was in my school. But I live in a more conservative area. I knew the ex retired officers on campus. And some of us kids used to practice invasion Red Dawn drills and had full scale war plans maps out with using our elders in case it happened. So we knew they where armed.

Economic Warfare Ins
Economic Warfare Ins

My personal belief is like my father stated in a more conservative time. When the kids knew the Principle had a shotgun on campus and some of the teachers where ex officers or had concealed guns on them. But that is a very conservative view point, he said kids in his age did not think about that as they knew the elders where armed.

Economic Warfare Ins
Economic Warfare Ins

Sounds like a great way to allow further students to be able to track, infranchise, along with see mental conditions of kids who are possibly those type of students who would kill their own fellow class mates. The mini series could use points like, how to be nicer to kids who seem outkasted. I remember when I was in school I tried to be nice to those kids who just seemed to want to be alone and did not wan to socialize with everyone else. Kids forget that other kids are human sometimes. Especially in inner city schools or suburbia. Where Church does not play a big part in child upbringing. It was funny as a major peer in the school as a very outgoing character how I look back and see what influence by just being me really played on the whole school. They do not teach kids that. Kids do not understand aura's or reality of those kids who are just more leaders or outgoing than others how they look up to them. That is something that is not taught in social studies.

KrisD
KrisD

LEAVE THE DEAD VICTIMS ALONE. And let the living ones in peace and quiet. They don't need that horrific event to be put forth into the public's eye again.

Randybrown
Randybrown

Once again Alan Prendergast shows his mastery of telling the true story, an incredibly complicated story, told by one of the few experts on the Columbine Tragedy.Alan understands it, and he has written about it with integrity for years.

About Cullen's book, it is, in my opinion, pitiful.If Cullen had bouts with PTSD it was about his failure to write a good book and tell the real story. His book is a joke. His tales of PTSD made me laugh. He cried for 3 weeks... bull. The police love him. That is all you should need to know, after watching the fiasco on tv. You could write a book about the errors in his book.

Sam, mentioned in Alan's story, is a wonderful young man. What a brave young man. I have met him and admire him. His story of the time in the cafeteria is chilling and maddening. I hope for him all of the best, and good luck on his documentary.

And, Thirteen Families is a wonderful, sad, heartfelt movie with some of the most memorable moments in film I have ever seen. Gee, I am starting to cry a little bit here. Hope it doesn't last for 3 weeks. It is a sad but great film.

One of the worst parts of this tragedy is the waste of the money that was donated to the Columbine Community, that was used to build bike paths,etc, and not saved for days like these, when the survivors would need counseling and some help to get through the day.There are still broken and healing hearts out there: sad, questioning, wondering, hoping that the school shootings will one day stop. They know about the sadness that the unnecessary violence creates. They have lived it.

Stop the bullying.

Randy Brown

Ragtag
Ragtag

As you are too young to remember Columbine, let me enlighten you a bit. This thing has been beaten to death, reported on, referenced, pondered, and discussed to no end. This miniseries will do nothing but make money for the people buying advertisement slots during its broadcast. You know bullying is wrong, you know that shooting up a school is wrong, and you are probably very well aware of the culture of fear that has lead to a zero-tolerance policy for violence and weapons in practically all K-12 institutions (7-year-old kids getting suspended and/or expelled for bringing a steak knife to eat their lunch with). We've learned our lessons, perhaps too well, and policies have been put in place to remind us of this fact constantly. A cheesy, over-dramatized miniseries will not make us learn these things any more than we already have, and such a production will only hurt the families and friends that you allegedly "sympathize" with.

Tjh3679
Tjh3679

And firearms used for recreation should be banned why?

Ro
Ro

So should there not be films about the Trade Centers and 9/11? How about the holocaust? The millions of Africans killed by warlords? All terrible and different situations but all similar in death. If you didnt have books and films about our past why would except any one to remember what happened? This situation may still be familiar with us Coloradons but what about a 16 year old in Florida?

Kendra
Kendra

I haven't read Cullen's book.

I did read your son's book about Columbine. That's truly horrible all the bullying that was going on and how the police ignored threats and then played like they hadn't already heard about it.

Ragtag
Ragtag

Greg doesn't understand a great many things. Even in countries where the general public can't purchase firearms, the criminals still manage to acquire them. By Greg's "logic," anything that's ever killed anyone on purpose should be banned. Drunk guy gets in a car and runs over his girlfriend? Better ban cars. Asshole grabs a kitchen knife and stabs an acquaintance or a spouse? I guess we should all do our cooking with sporks.

Timbuk2
Timbuk2

Who cares about a 16-year-old in Florida? Do you really expect anyone, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, to actually learn something of value from a made-for-TV, ADD, good/bad, edited-for-time, exaggerated-plot miniseries? I'm not sure what universe you smoke your granola in, but not everything is so clear cut so as to learn everything about our world from the boob tube. Books? Fine. Film? Fine. This is the Lifetime Channel we're talking about. Have you ever watched their "programs?" There will be strong Christian overtones, suggestions that Harris and Klebold were misogynistic abusers of women, overt foreshadowing, fabricated subplots, dramatic music and cheesy close-ups, all brought to you by L'Oreal makeup or some shit.

Alison Maynard
Alison Maynard

Cullen's book has received attention because it is favorable to the law enforcement community and puts over the same myths about Columbine we were fed right from the outset.

Myths that have never been debunked, because any attempts at a real investigation of what happened have been stymied. The worst offense, in my mind, was placing under wraps--in the National Archives no less, for 25 years--the depositions of the Harris & Klebold parents taken in Mark Taylor's civil suit. That shows a cover-up. More evidence of a cover-up is that a commission was created to "investigate" Columbine, made up of law enforcement aficionados and apologists, which continually wrung its hands over not having subpoena power, so--such a shame--it could do no real investigation. Well, there were two officials who DID have subpoena power, and could have used it--STILL could use it--to obtain the Harris & Klebold parents' depositions as well as the documents in the sheriff's office and the school. These were the DA, Dave Thomas, and the Attorney General (at the behest of the governor), Ken Salazar. Salazar, by the way, profited from the killings by mounting an "anti-bullying campaign" which received hundreds of thousands of dollars of free publicity before the 2002 election. Neither of these officials exercised their subpoena power, however. Five years after the killing Salazar announced with great fanfare that he was opening a "limited investigation." Well, why limited? And why 5 years after the fact?

The sheriff's report has many inconsistencies, revealing that not simply two, but SEVERAL shooters, were observed by dozens of students, who even identified two of them as alumni of the school. There is a videotape made early in the day of the sheriff leading someone handcuffed to his car. We were never told who that person was. The pictures of Harris and Klebold dead in the library show that it is impossible they killed themselves. Both are prone and blood is splattered up on the shelves a few inches off the floor near their bodies, showing they were killed while in that position. Also, the gun is held in the left hand by Klebold, who was right-handed--and it's a big long gun. There were something like 150 bombs found in the school. There is no way two students could have brought those into the school. There were affirmative reports of a stand-down order being given to at least one sheriff's deputy who charged into the school to try and save the students, and was ordered back.

The mention of Dewayne Fusilier, the FBI agent charged with leading the FBI investigation, is interesting, because his own son was a Columbine student who, a couple years earlier, had made a videotape about shooting up the school.

The excessive presence of the MILITARY, as well as law enforcement agencies from all over the metro area, while the killers were inside the school shows advance knowledge that Columbine was going to happen--and lends support to a theory that Columbine was, in fact, yet another false-flag operation designed to cause terror in the populace, and lead to more and more suppression of our civil liberties in the name of "security." The school is located in the heart of "CIA country" and the military establishment. Eric Harris's father was, in fact, military; and the Harris family had lived at Plattsburg, NY, the site of CIA mind-control experiments.

I believe another reason for Columbine may have been to enhance name recognition of the Ken Salazar, as well, like Obama another puppet of the finance capitalists.

So, anyway, whenever it appears that the people are starting to discover the real story, and that they've been lied to by their public officials, the banksters trot out their apologists like Dave Cullen, to burnish the myth and divert attention from the fact that there was no real investigation. And the media outlets are inundated with the Hollywood version and we get more hype and blather about The Myth. And we never get the Truth.

 
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