NEW YORK – Yoko Ono tried to stop the filming of a controversial new movie about John Lennon assassin Mark David Chapman outside the Dakota this week - but failed to stop the crew from recreating tragedy on her doorstep.
"Yoko immediately checked if the Dakota building had the right to refuse them filming the façade, and found out that legally, all they had to do was to get the permission of the city," said Ono's publicist, Kip Kouri. The city already had granted the permits to Canadian film company Peace Arch.
While the city's decision saddened Ono, she has the sympathies of fans all over the world - who have expressed outrage over a film that could put Chapman into a more sympathetic light.
"It's a massacre," said Stephen Spiro, the first police officer to the scene the night of Lennon's murder. "Horrible, horrible. That's why Chapman killed Lennon. So he could be famous."
Fans, actors and extras remarked on the eerie scene outside the Dakota yesterday as a portly Leto - decked out in Chapman's trademark glasses - prowled around the grounds for "Chapter 27," based on the final three days of the killer's life. It is set for release in 2007.
"Yoko doesn't like it," acknowledged background actor Richard Steadman. "She was against this. People who live here don't want to be bothered. Yoko came here with her head down."
Security for the building made sure filmmakers, actors and crew kept their distance from the posh entrance while fans gawked to see glimpses of Leto and 19-year-old starlet Lohan, who plays a fictional character that befriended Chapman on the day of the murder.
A publicist consultant to the film company was unsure how many days the production company would be shooting outside the Dakota. "Chapter 27" is named for the so-called "missing" chapter of "Catcher in the Rye," the J.D. Salinger book Chapman cited as inspiration for his killing. According to Robert Rosen's book "Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon," Chapman wanted to write the final chapter in Lennon's blood.
Initially remarking that she had not read the script, film publicist Jenny Lawhorn said, "It is a period piece so we have 1980s-era set props. I can't give away how the movie ends but I'm sure you probably know what happens."
Fans were horrified that the movie was retracing the steps of the killer.
"Build a façade of the Dakota in Hollywood or somewhere else," said Alec Wilkinson, a writer who lives on West 75th. "It seems insensitive."
Visiting all the way from Grimsby, England, to see the former grounds of his working class hero and beloved Beatle was property developer Mike Robinson, who remarked, "It's glamorizing the act of the killing."
"I could see them building a set to do it someplace else," added Alan Weiss, a TV producer who was in the emergency room the night Lennon was shot. "Filming it outside your own home is kind of having your nose rubbed in it."
Retired officer Spiro said he found the entire movie in poor taste and expressed his sympathies for the Dakota's most famous resident.
"I'm surprised that with Yoko's power she wasn't able to stop the filming," Spiro said from his home in upstate New York. "I think that after 25 years, let it be."