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Framing John DeLorean
by Karen Pecota

"DeLorean is a man of limitless mental energy. How else could he juggle so many lies for so long?"

When was the first time you heard the name DeLorean? In the movie Back to the Future, right? This was the case for the now 40-something filmmakers Sheena M. Joyce and Don Argott. The two were not as aware of DeLorean's trials as they were his cool winged-door sports car that made history in one of the most iconic films to date.

John Z. DeLorean (1925–2005) was a remarkable engineer who left an unforgettable mark on the automotive industry. He was known by many but to each differently, causing one to ask, "Will the real John DeLorean please stand up?” He was controversial, a revolutionary, a renegade, a con man, a visionary, a husband, a father, creative, an inventor, mysterious and misunderstood.

DeLorean was an engineer and executive at General Motors (GM) in the 50s. He was the youngest division head in the GM history. In 1973 he left GM and started his own company to produce his signature sports car made of stainless-steel, the DeLorean. The venture was a disaster and cost him so much on the journey toward his American Dream. In 1982, DeLorean was drawn into a cocaine trafficking scandal after he was videotaped by the FBI bank-rolling the operation. He was acquitted two years later after a highly publicized trial.

Ten years in the making, Joyce and Argott’s doc-narrative Framing John DeLorean is a collaboration with XYZ Films, DeLorean Historian and producer Tamir Ardon, and 9.14 Pictures. The reason being is that in 2009, Joyce and Argott learned that these people were already working on material for a feature film about the life and times of John DeLorean, as were other producers but none of them survived. Why? What was the fascination of the man's story that could never be materialized into a Hollywood film?

Joyce and Argott realized they needed to discover and reveal the "real" John DeLorean. To know him as a person would be crucial to their telling of his story, which others possibly couldn't clearly identify. Using this information, the filmmakers bring to light what factors in DeLorean’s life "framed" him.

When actor Alec Baldwin, who plays DeLorean in the films re-enactment scenes, was asked about the documentary/re-enactment style he had this to say, "The existing footage of DeLorean, related to his most celebrated misadventures, is weak. It's surveillance footage, so it's necessarily shot from a poor angle and it's grainy. The story pretty much begs for re-enactment scenes to bring it to another level."

Asked what Baldwin hopes the audience will take away he says, "I want people to see beyond the cautionary tale of charm, seduction and power that allowed John to nearly pull off his scheme." Adding, "To realize that hype and public relations have gone to even more dangerous heights in business and, as we've recently seen, politics. We make too many consequential decisions based on too little information."

Framing John DeLorean gives insight into a genius of a man with a remarkable reputation gone side-ways and the lessons he learned.