Oliver Stone's JFK


The Cast: In Their Own Words

Kevin Costner (Jim Garrison)

"It's not ironic, it's sad that people are still investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy . . . It's sad that this crime was not properly investigated from the very beginning."(1) "Nobody in America believes Oswald did it."(2)

"[This movie] shouldn't be thought of as a factual kind of thing. But it should be pretty thought provoking and fall into the guise of entertaining and some real things. For those who would paint Garrison as a complete kook, they're missing the point. There is within us an ambiguity that exists within all people. But that's not what we're discussing. We're discussing complete blockages of justice."(3)

"If it would've been a biography of Jim Garrison, I might not have done the movie. What we were going for was an emotional truth of what went down. It's like my film, The Bodyguard, for all its commercial bulls***, never intended to explore a black and white relationship. It was just a get-a-popcorn-and-Coke-and-take-your-girl-to-the-movie kind of film. Well, JFK never intended to explore who Garrison was and didn't come close to explaining who that man was. We just used him as the vehicle to communicate what happened. People criticize Garrison, but I think he was like a man who sees a UFO. His life was changed because from that moment on, he could never say that he'd never seen a UFO. His whole life unraveled."(4)

"I received a lot of strange mail over doing the part and that kind of thing. But I decided long ago that I would never conduct my career out of fear. When I made my decision about it, I thought that it was right and that it worked. I knew there would be questions answered and new ones raised and debates that I could never really compete in because, when you start slinging thirty years of mud, any intellectual in the world can make you seem foolish. What I identified with in the script was the emotional truth."(5)

"[I researched Jim Garrison carefully before agreeing to play him.] This was a man without fear. He was a very commanding presence, a man who was made to look foolish by history and given ulterior motives."

"I met with Garrison's critics as well as the people on the street who still love him. He's got conflicting sides like everybody, and both Oliver and I wanted him played that way.(6) He was a person that I believe was a patriot, someone who'd served in wars, who had a genuine love of country."(7)

"There was one event that struck him as being very funny [a drive to Houston by David Ferrie]. He investigated it very early on, turned the information over to a government agency, the FBI, feeling that there was enough there to investigate. They did not conclude the same thing, which caused his office a little bit of concern, like, you know, gee, we happen to think this is a very interesting thing. The FBI said, no, we don't believe that this is. And Jim let it lay. He let it lay for three years."(8)

"Our governments are accountable to us . . . Jim was just trying to get at that fundamental idea, that we are not content to just take the word of powerful people. Because in Jim's own words, he's seen powerful people and he's not impressed."(9)

"We have a right to know. The American people deeply feel like we don't know why we were in Vietnam. We don't know what forces were opposed to John Kennedy. You know, the same men who showed up at his funeral despised this man and had other agendas where he was concerned. We didn't know that. We got J. Edgar Hoover's name all over buildings all over America, and what we know about J. Edgar Hoover now is not very flattering and in most instances seems almost criminal. We have a right to know."(10)

"As an actor, I object to the press revealing plot developments, printing entire speeches. I want to perform Garrison's closing argument in its virginal form so people can be moved by it -- or think it's bulls***." (11)

"To grab his script and leak it borders on being a kind of criminal act. It's so out of bounds. And it's mean. It was hard for Oliver to work when he was under attack and being turned into a cartoon." (12)

"I think, God love him, [Oliver Stone would] like it to be easier, but it's just not easy for Oliver to wind down. His mind is active . . . he can't turn the light off. And he doesn't want to be alone then. He wants someone to stay with him a while."(13)

"[Oliver would] tease me about being conservative, and I'd say he was full of shit. I'd tell him, 'You're more f****** conservative than I'll ever be -- that's why you hired me.' But that was just a teasing game. He'll tease you and you have to have the ability to tease back and carve out ground for yourself. I remember one day he'd said something smart to me and I just basically said, 'Why don't you go back by the monitor, 'cause nobody wants to listen to you anyway.' Of course, the whole crew shakes and quakes 'cause I said that to him, but he looked at me and he gave me that really great smile that he has and you know it's all right."(14)

"Oliver works really hard and it's something that is contagious. When you see that your leader is working really hard, you just tend to try harder yourself. It's inspiring."(15)

"I've heard that [he can manipulate, even goad his actors to get a better performance out of them] and I don't disbelieve it, but that didn't happen with me. We found a relationship very early on. As a director, he's not that threatened, he's pretty comfortable. He leaves a big window of opportunity for the actor, which is good. My theory behind working for a director is, if it's wrong, I'll say something, but if it's a matter of choice and it's just not my choice, I won't say anything. People are constantly asking me how do I feel about acting since I've directed. Frankly, I don't have a problem with it. I had problems with bad directors long before I became a director. Oliver is similar to the great directors I've worked with because he is clear. He was very careful and considerate with me. No matter what the circumstance was, if l asked him something, his head swiveled around and his eyes got really clear. And when he said, 'What?' it was with a question mark behind it, not like a 'What now?' He was totally for the actor, and that's a situation that many of us don't often find ourselves in. He creates a real environment for you to do the best you can do."

"[I had a real problem with only one scene.] I told him ahead of time that he could not change things on me, or that, if they did have to change something, I needed to know three or four days before. Maybe my pattern is slower than other people. I don't know, but it's the way I like to work. We had one scene, a very little scene that they threw at me, and it wasn't because of rain or because of some technical s***. It was just because somebody did it. He saw me almost implode and I think he was startled because we'd done an eleven- page straight-through scene in a half a day, when he'd scheduled it for two days. This was just like a little itty-bitty scene, but the more I did it, the worse I got, so eventually it becomes embarrassing for me because I pride myself on what I do. So he came over and we sat down in the back and he said, 'God, you're like a self-fulfilling prophecy.' He was doing everything to help me relax, and I was trying to do two things. One, I was trying to relax, and second, I was trying to say, 'You motherf*****, I told you this would happen.' Actually, it was probably somebody else's obligation to remind him, what with the amount of things he's got to think about. I think he was shocked. He looked at me like he couldn't believe it. That wasn't the hardest scene, but it was the hardest one for me."

"[Filming the closing monologue] was great," Costner says. "I think we got that thing done before lunch. It was one of those things that just bubbled up inside as I spoke it. I was surprised at how emotional it was. I'd read it a hundred times, and thought about cutting out the lines' Ask not what your country can do for you' and to cut out the line 'your dying king,' and yet I refused to do that because it's just the way I was trained. I do the lines. I change things sometimes, but that's such a bold stroke that I felt like I had to give it a chance in my head. I thought, 'What the f***? Am I gonna say this line or not?' So I'm doing this whole speech and I get to this point and it just has so much gravity and so much weight. Oliver was gonna pull that moment out, quite honestly, he was gonna pull out the Tennyson quote -- 'Authority forgets a dying king.' I said, 'Don't do it just yet. Let me . . . you know, try it.' Well, when I was doing it, all of a sudden Garrison, the character I was playing, almost couldn't continue. And it worked. But it came naturally."(16)

"I'll tell you something that no one ever talked about. I saw Oliver take a lot of things out of the script which were kind of sensational. There are lots of other directors who are not as responsible, who wouldn't have done that. Also, I busted him over certain things and when he couldn't corroborate it or whatever, he took it out of the script. He never fought me about that. And we were always really, really careful when my character would talk about conjecture or his theories and say, 'Let's suppose.' I was very adamant about that and very clear, and Oliver, to his credit, had already started that process. It wasn't something I goaded him into at all. It was just that when anything seemed improbable to me, we'd say, are we walking on broken glass here or what?"(17)

"Oliver is trying so hard to be true, it's almost an obsession, almost to the point that he's his own experiment. And he's proved himself. As easy as people would like to dismiss him, they just can't because Oliver is just too good. He's too smart and he's too careful. He's got that enthusiasm which can get all of us, but still he's careful. That's why he's smarter than most of these people criticizing him. He's better prepared than they are and he's willing to listen actually much more than they think he is. In fact, the truth is, Oliver is willing to listen and they're not. He may not buy what they say, but he listens to it. Sure, he gets confused sometimes. We all do, but he's talented, and he just keeps trying to go forward and trying to be true. He's true blue." (18)

"[Oliver is very sensitive.] It's a weakness that he should choose to keep, because otherwise he would become a different person, not as vulnerable. I think Oliver wants a world where he knows there's somebody at his back. Like a team playing for the coach, he longs for that camaraderie of pulling together and believing and closing up ranks. But this is a world that kicks a lot at things for no reason. This is a world that does a complete analysis of a football game before it's even half over. This world wants to get at it really quick. It's hard for us to settle anything, and he wants things to be more decisive. So he feels like he needs his friends to close ranks around him, and sometimes, if you don't, I think you risk his wondering if you are with him or against him. That makes him hard to deal with. But he's worth the effort because he's the genuine article. There's nobody like him." (19)

"Oliver believes in his country. He fights for its values. Unlike most of the country, he doesn't let things go by. He writes his letters and he makes his speeches. And don't ever forget he put his life on the line in Vietnam. Oliver believes he has' the right to criticize this country and he's earned that right. He pays his taxes and he creates work for people, but even more importantly, he creates vision. He's the best kind of American. He's a dog. He'll fight over a bone but he'll also fight for your right to have it."

"[There are a lot of people in Hollywood who want to see Oliver Stone fail.] When you have success, it's almost a crime in America in a way. When you have big success, it's almost like there's no place to go but down. If you endure, then you become almost endearing. Of course, Oliver won't reach that stage for a long time because there's too many people that he's gotten mad at him. Oliver makes a noise when he walks. It's up to his friends to stick by him in these battles so he can keep making his movies, keep creating images and stories that we'll never forget." (20)

"I don't think anybody talks about this, but it really could've endeq the whole project. It was our first day in Dealey Plaza and thousands of people were watching. There were about fifty or sixty extras sitting on the ground in front of the Book Depository while the crew was working on the sixth floor when suddenly, the window from the sixth floor fell out. This big sheet of glass comes hurtling down. It was terrible. It could've severed heads, severed bodies, it could've easily killed three or four people. Imagine a big plate of glass falling from six floors up, coming straight down like a guillotine. Well, in the last fifteen feet a gust of wind caught the glass and lifted it like a piece of paper, moved it off about twenty-five feet, and then it slammed to the ground where it shattered and didn't hit anybody. I just played the scenario over of the trauma and the controversy of having three or four people killed on the first day of filming. I could just see us being denied Dealey Plaza and the whole film falling apart. We were all shaken. But as the shattered glass was swept up, I just projected that it was the destruction of this dark blemish on American history and the end of everything that didn't want this movie to go forward. After the glass fell I looked at Oliver and he just nodded and moved on. I felt like saying, 'You don't know how lucky we are,' but Oliver just kept marching. That's what's so great about him. I would've just played the scenario over and over for a while. He just kept on keeping on."(21)




You may wish to see:

Who's Who in the Jim Garrison Case

Jim Garrison's New Orleans Photo Gallery

Articles and resources on Jim Garrison's New Orleans conspiracy investigation,
including the Clay Shaw trial transcript

Articles and resources on the JFK assassination


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1. Newsgroup post by Dave Ratcliffe, April 1, 1992.

2. Quoted by Pershing Gervais. George Lardner, Jr., "On the Set: Dallas in Wonderland," Washington Post, May 19, 1991, reprinted in Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 197.

3. New York Times, June 9, 1991, cited in Paul Hoch, Echoes of Conspiracy, Vol. 13, No. 1.

4. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), p. 406.

5. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), p. 407.

6. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), pp. 367-68.

7. Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy (1992), Warner Video, directed by Danny Schechter and Barbara Kopple.

8. Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy (1992), Warner Video, directed by Danny Schechter and Barbara Kopple.

9. Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy (1992), Warner Video, directed by Danny Schechter and Barbara Kopple.

10. Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy (1992), Warner Video, directed by Danny Schechter and Barbara Kopple.

11. Elaine Dutka, "Oliver Stone fights back," Los Angeles Times, June 24, 1991, cited in Paul Hoch, Echoes of Conspiracy, Vol. 13, No. 1.

12. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), p. 386.

13. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), pp. 392-93.

14. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), pp. 392-93.

15. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), p. 392.

16. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), pp. 393-94.

17. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), p. 407.

18. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), pp. 409-10.

19. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), p. 410.

20. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), p. 418.

21. James Riordan, Stone (New York: Hyperion, 1995), p. 376.


Who's Who in the Jim Garrison Case

Jim Garrison's New Orleans Photo Gallery

Articles and resources on Jim Garrison's New Orleans conspiracy investigation,
including the Clay Shaw trial transcript

Articles and resources on the JFK assassination


Search this site
    powered by FreeFind

Dave Reitzes home page