In 'JFK,' history takes back seat to Hollywood


January 22, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

It now seems to be a rule that if a journalist goes to see the movie "JFK" he is required to write about it at some length.

But don't worry. I have not seen "JFK" and won't until it comes to cable. This is because I stopped going to movies years ago.

I stopped going because I noticed that audiences had adopted the "auteur" theory of movie viewing: they believed they could actually redirect the actors from their seats.

"Yo! JFK! Watch out for the book depository!"

Nonetheless, I feel more qualified than most to write about "JFK" even though I have not seen it.

This is because I recognize the true brilliance of what "JFK's" maker, Oliver Stone, has done.

Stone has discovered he can change our perception of history simply by casting appealing and heroic Hollywood superstars in roles that are neither appealing nor heroic.

By most accounts, Jim Garrison, the New Orleans district attorney at the time of John Kennedy's assassination, was no hero. In fact, he seemed to many a pretty odd guy.

Newsweek quoted one journalist, who covered Garrison, as saying: "He went from a highly intelligent eccentric to a lunatic in the period of one year."

Yet in "JFK", Garrison is played heroically and sympathetically by Kevin Costner. Costner specializes in playing heroes like Elliot Ness and Robin Hood.

Is this important? Yes. As George Orwell noted in "1984", he who controls the past ultimately controls the future.

If we believe, as Stone and Garrison do, that John Kennedy was killed by a vast conspiracy made up of the CIA, FBI, the Army, the Navy, and the Dallas police force among others, then this changes how we look at the world.

But what if Oliver Stone made other movies, casting other appealing actors and actresses in the roles of "misunderstood" public figures? Couldn't history be changed even more?

Consider these future projects:

1. "JVS" -- Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin comes to life as only Tom Cruise can play him! All the passion and fury of the Soviet Union's "Top Gun" from 1922 to 1953 bursts onto the screen.

Portrayed by historians as a paranoid and bloody dictator, responsible for the deaths of millions, Stalin is now shown as he truly was: A simple boy from Georgia who just wanted to make his mother proud and earn a father's love.

Emilio Estevez as Trotsky. Julian Lennon as Lenin.

2. "Sleeping with Louis XVI" -- Julia Roberts plays Marie Antoinette as you've never seen her before! She's zany; she's madcap, but she's oh so romantic! The spotlight of truth finally shines upon Marie, the consort of King Louie XVI (Judd Nelson), as we learn how she was an early feminist, ecologist, consumer advocate, and battler for better child labor laws. In the end she is toppled by a conspiracy between her wicked stepmother and two evil stepsisters who despise her politics and her really good taste in clothes.

Roberts turns in what's sure to be an Oscar-winning performance as she stands before the guillotine in the Place de la Revolution on Oct. 16, 1793, and says: "I never said 'Let them eat cake.' I said, 'Let them sleep late!' It's just my lousy French accent!"

Rob Lowe as Robespierre.

3. "He's Julius; I'm Ethel!" -- Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn team together again to show you a Julius and Ethel Rosenberg the history books ignore!

The two nutcakes open a flower shop outside Los Alamos, N.M., and try to order "geraniums, 235 of them," when they are accused by FBI agents of ordering "Uranium 235", the essential ingredient for an atomic bomb!

The fun starts there and rollicks right along until June 19, 1953, when the two are electrocuted.

4. "The Assassinator" -- Arnold Schwarzenegger is John Wilkes Booth! First Booth accidentally stumbles into Abraham Lincoln's private box at Ford's Theater on the night of April 14, 1865 (Booth was really looking for the men's room) as the president snoozes. There, Booth discovers Mrs. Lincoln (Demi Moore) in the arms of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (Charlie Sheen), as they plot Lincoln's demise so that Grant can get his picture on the $50 bill!

Lincoln awakens, there is a tussle, a gun goes off and Booth is blamed.

And watch soon for the sequel, "Assassinator II," with Schwarzenegger as William McKinley's worst nightmare, Leon Czolgosz.

5. "Honey, I Shrunk General Washington!" -- Benedict Arnold is played by Martin Short in a breakthrough dramatic role for the appealing young comedian. Wrongly accused of deserting to the British during America's Revolutionary War, Arnold was actually on a secret mission to smuggle a new set of wooden teeth through the British blockade for George Washington.

Alan King as Washington. Roseanne Barr as King George III.

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