JFK (1991) Poster



Martin Sheen provides a narration at the beginning of the film. He played John F. Kennedy in Kennedy (1983) and would later act in the film Bobby (2006), which is centered around the assassination of John's brother Robert F. Kennedy.
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Oliver Stone showed this film in December of 1991 to all of Congress on Capitol Hill. It led to the 1992 Assassinations Disclosure Act
The real Jim Garrison plays Earl Warren.
Dean (John Candy) Andrews' sweaty face during his talk with Garrison is real. Candy was petrified at the idea of appearing in a dramatic film with professional actors like Gary Oldman and Donald Sutherland. He sweated profusely throughout all his scenes.
Director Oliver Stone's favorite film of his own.
This mammoth production was shot in only 72 days.
The murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby was filmed on location in the actual basement garage of Dallas City Hall where the shooting took place.
Making Dealey Plaza look the same as it did in 1963 cost $4 million.
Those are real tears choking up Kevin Costner as he makes his closing summation as Jim Garrison. The weight of what he was saying meant the actor became emotional although the speech was not scripted that way.
In preparation for her portrayal of Marina Oswald, Beata Pozniak studied the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission Report, read every single "Time" and "Newsweek" magazine article about her character, and then actually lived with the real Marina for a while.
Dr. Marion Jenkins, the anesthetist, plays himself in the film. He was genuinely surprised at the level of detail and research that had gone into preparation for that key scene. Even the tiles for the set of Trauma Room One were exactly the same shade of green he remembered (even though the scene itself is black and white in the finished film).
After reading Jim Garrison's book, Oliver Stone immediately bought the rights with his own money.
For the recreation of the assassination at Dealey Plaza, the producers had to pay the Dallas City Council a large amount of money to hire police to reroute traffic and close down streets for three weeks. Stone only had 10 days to shoot the entire sequence. Director of photography Robert Richardson employed two 35mm cameras, five 16mm cameras and 14 different film stocks for the sequence.
Even before "JFK" had finished filming, the Washington Post national security correspondent George Lardner showed up on set and wrote a scathing article attacking the movie. Lardner based this on the first draft screenplay he had read. Other leading newspapers followed suit upon the film's release, many taking particular umbrage with the liberties with the facts that Oliver Stone had taken.
Oswald's arrest was filmed in the real Texas Theatre where it happened. Money from the producers helped to restore the theater and keep it in business.
Getting permission to film in the Texas School Book Depository proved to be very difficult. The Depository demanded $50,000 to put someone in the window where Lee Harvey Oswald had stood. They were only allowed to film at certain times of the day, with only five people allowed on the floor at any one time. Co-producer Clayton Townsend said that the hardest part of the whole process was getting permission to transform the building back to the way it looked in 1963. That took five months of negotiation. Scenes of interior action on the sixth floor were actually filmed on the fifth floor, as the sixth floor is a museum exhibit. But all point of view shots of the motorcade were filmed from the actual sixth floor window, as well as all shots of the shooter behind the window as seen from the outside.
Veteran movie critic for The Washingtonian Pat Dowell had her 34 word capsule review for the January issue rejected by editor John Limpert, a known opponent to the film. Limpert didn't want a positive review for a film that he regarded as treacherous. Dowell resigned in protest.
"X", Donald Sutherland's character, is based on L. Fletcher Prouty, Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and, thus, principal liaison officer between the Pentagon and the CIA) during the JFK presidency. He was a technical advisor for the film.
Shortly after the film's release, film critic Roger Ebert received a tongue-lashing from Walter Cronkite, berating him for praising "JFK". Cronkite was adamant that there wasn't a shred of truth to the film.
During Willie (Kevin Bacon) O'Keefe's flashback, David (Joe Pesci) Ferrie is talking about making Fidel Castro's beard fall out to embarrass him. This was an actual CIA plot, which failed.
The Angola prison scene was filmed entirely on location with the real guards and inmates.
During the party scene flashback, Clay chastises David Ferrie, "Always one hare-brained scheme or another." He is right, too. The real David Ferrie was famous for doing stupid things. He once tried to turn a water tank into a submarine, unsuccessfully.
When shooting footage of the grassy knoll gunman Oliver Stone could not find a gun which made enough smoke to be visible. Since modern guns release almost no smoke from their barrels a smoke machine was made to get the effect which they wanted.
Garrison tells the jury that 51 witnesses thought they heard shots from the grassy knoll. Harold Feldman's article "Fifty-One Witnesses: The Grassy Knoll" was published in 1965.
Perry R. Russo, who was a key witness to conversations taking place between David Ferrie, Clay Shaw (aka Clay Bertrand), and Lee Harvey Oswald, plays a man in the bar at the beginning of the film, where Garrison and Lou are watching the TV coverage on the shooting. Mr. Russo yells about how they should give the shooter a medal for shooting Kennedy.
John Candy was picked by Oliver Stone to portray Dean Andrews because he bore a very strong resemblance to the man.
Oliver Stone regards this film as his The Godfather (1972).
Garrison's final lines in the film - "If it takes me 30 years to nail every one of the assassins, then I will continue this investigation for 30 years. I owe that not only to Jack Kennedy but to my country" - are lifted directly from the last word of his 1967 'Playboy' magazine interview.
Donald Sutherland and Kevin Costner both have very long monologues in the movie. According to director Oliver Stone, both of them memorized these speeches (Kevin Costner had thought that one take was necessary for his speech).
Is the only film that stars both Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau without the two of them sharing a scene.
In an interview, Kevin Costner once revealed that he rehearsed his rather long trial summation to the jury while in the swimming pool, with his mother correcting him from the script.
Oliver Stone was given a copy of Jim Garrison's book, "On the Trail of the Assassins", by a friend to read on the plane to the Philippines during the filming of "Platoon". After reading the book, Stone knew he'd found a new film project.
James Woods eagerly lobbied for the role of Garrison. However he and Oliver Stone had vast creative differences, Woods wanting the film to be more of a biography of Jim Garrison with much more emphasis on his personal life, while Stone wanted it to be primarily about the case.
Stone hired Jane Rusconi, a recent Yale graduate, to head up a team of researchers and assemble as much information about the assassination as possible while he completed his directing duties on Born on the Fourth of July (1989). While Stone read two dozen books about the assassination, Rusconi read well over 200 books on the subject.
The real Jim Garrison never made the speech that Costner makes at the end of the movie. It was taken from several speeches the he gave and some of it from his book.
Computer mock-ups of the assassination, particularly one by Dale K. Myers have since strenuously argued against the Magic Bullet Theory as presented in this film by pointing out that the Presidential Limo actually had a step in its manufacture, moving the passenger seats inwards. This had been overlooked in Garrison's diagram. However, Myers' simulation is not without criticism of its own in regard to accuracy.
Don Johnson tried hard to get the part of Jim Garrison. He was turned down, as Stone and the producers felt the actors own public image would make him a hard sell as Garrison.
The film alludes to the so called "umbrella man" as being part of the conspiracy, possibly as some type of signal for the shooters since he is standing very near to the limousine as Kennedy is shot. The implication is he and/or his motives were never identified. However, in the late 1970's, around ten years after Clay Shaw's trial, he was identified as Louie Steven Witt, and actually testified before the House Select Committee on Assassinations. According to filmmaker Errol Morris, and published with the New York Times, this mystery man opened his umbrella as Kennedy drove by, not for any sinister reasons, but to protest against Kennedy's father, Joseph P. Kennedy, who was an ambassador to Britain, and is a reference to former British Prime Mister Neville Chamberlain's umbrella. Morris's short film describing this is entitled "The Umbrella Man."
Every detail concerning the set for the Oval Office was meticulously reconstructed based on archival footage of the White House during President John F. Kennedy's term. The set cost about $70,000 to complete, yet it only appears in about eight seconds of film and is in black and white.
24 researchers were involved in the scripting process.
In the commentary, Oliver Stone said that filming the murder of "JFK" was "probably the hardest two weeks" of his life. However, he maintained that it was a powerful moment for him.
While the assassination of Bobby Kennedy was only recorded on audio by a freelance newspaper reporter, the aftermath used in the film was actual footage recorded on June 5th 1968.
When Joe Pesci is ranting about the assassination, saying that no one will ever solve the JFK murder, he utters the famous line, "It's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma...." He was paraphrasing Winston Churchill's quotation, made in a radio broadcast in October 1939: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."
The characters "Janet and Bill Williams" are based on Michael and Ruth Paine who, like in the movie, take in Marina Oswald into their home. It was actually Ruth Paine who got Lee the job at the Texas School Book Depository.
When Ferrie is raving about the necessity of killing Kennedy in order to free Cuba, he is unaware of a bitter irony. Part of the deal worked out by JFK to get the missiles removed from Cuba was a pledge by the USA not to invade the island nation. This was revealed only after the USSR/Soviet Union collapsed and the Kremlin archives were opened to the public. This is why, even after JFK was killed, Cuba remained a communist nation after the Cold War ended. The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, which was enacted February 7, 1962, is still in effect. As of 2013, there are five Communist nations still in existence - Cuba, People's Republic of China, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), and the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos).
Director Oliver Stone enjoyed filming at the Angola prison so much that he has expressed a desire to shoot a film set entirely on location there.
In Bull Durham (1988), Kevin Costner's character stated "... I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone...".
The film generated intense controversy upon its release with many accusing Oliver Stone of making up many of the facts. In fact, Stone published an annotated version of his screenplay, in which he justifies and attributes every claim made in the film. Stone later addressed the controversy in his TV movie Wild Palms (1993) in which he has a cameo. That film takes place in the 21st Century and has Stone appearing on a talk show discussing how all his conspiracy theories surrounding "JFK" had been proven true.
"The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it" was a Nazi quote, but this concise version did not belong to Adolf Hitler; it was spoken by Joseph Goebbels. Hitler had written "...in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility...in the primitive simplicity of their (the broad masses') minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie..." in "Mein Kampf" (Vol.I, ch.10, p.252; (c)1925).
In New Orleans, director Oliver Stone borrowed author Anne Rice's Labrador Retriever to portray the Garrison family's dog.
During the conversation between Jim Garrison and X appears a flashback in black and white which a headmen group of some organizations (CIA, NSA, Pentagon... ) plot to control Kennedy, and one of them ask Max Taylor follows McNamara. Max Taylor is really Maxwell D. Taylor, general of USA Army in this time, and McNamara is really Robert McNamara, United States Secretary of Defense when Kennedy was President and one of the Kennedy's advisers.
Kevin Costner researched the character of Jim Garrison extensively, including meeting the man himself as well as his friends and enemies.
Gary Oldman, who played Lee Harvey Oswald in this film, also voiced Lee Harvey Oswald in the TV's Frontline (1983), Episode #11.20: "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?", original air date: 9 November 1993.
James Belushi makes a cameo in Director's Cut as an accomplice of JFK's murder. He appears in Elm Street (where the president was killed) as archive footage when Jim Garrison explains step by step the JFK's murder in the trial.
Marlon Brando turned down the role of X.
Many actors waived their usual fees to appear in the film.
During the conversation between Jim Garrison and X, there is a close-up of a desktop nameplate which is partially obscured. It reads "M/Gen. E.G... nsd... e", and is a reference to Edward G. Lansdale of the United States Air Force. Lansdale is the subject of the book "JFK and Vietnam" by John M. Newman, one of the film's technical advisors.
"Let justice be done though the heavens fall" is an old Roman maxim: Fiat justitia ruat caelum.
Oliver Stone made a handshake deal with Warner Brothers on the proviso that the studio would retain all rights to the film if they stomped up $20 million for the budget. Stone did this deal because he didn't want the screenplay to do the rounds of all the studios, thereby lessening the chances of potential leaks.
During one scene of an NSC meeting, a general accuses Kennedy of having "...his hand on the chicken switch again." A Chicken Switch is an emergency cut-off button installed in Air Force flight simulators. If the testing candidate feels his life is in danger, he can "chicken out" by shutting down the machine. By using this vernacular, the general identifies himself as both a pilot and an Air Force general.
Director Oliver Stone's first two choices to play Jim Garrison were Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson.
Rated #5 of the 25 most controversial movies of all time. Entertainment Weekly, 16 June 2006.
Initially, Kevin Costner turned down the chance to play Jim Garrison.
" [O]ne may smile, and smile, and be a villain" is from William Shakespeare's "Hamlet", Act I, Scene V.
While Zachary Sklar dealt with the Garrison side of the story in the screenplay, Oliver Stone concentrated on Lee Harvey Oswald, the events at Dealey Plaza and the character of Mr X.
Several times when talking about Washington D.C. Mr. X (Donald Sutherland) says, "inside The Loop". He is referring to the convergence of several freeways around the nation's capital. The nickname is common to natives and those who work in Washington D.C.
The television show Seinfeld (1989) would later parody the "magic bullet" theory featured in "JFK" in an episode where Kramer and Newman believe that they had been spat at by NY Met Keith Hernandez. Jerry diagrams the course of the "magic loogie" and Keith later reveals that there was a second spitter, Roger McDowell. Wayne Knight, who plays Newman, is also in "JFK" as a member of Garrison's team. He would be one of the two men to model the shooting in court to prove the implausibility of the "magic bullet", not unlike how Jerry disproves Newman and Kramer's theory.
The fifth pairing out of ten movies of comic actors and great friends Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
The real Jean Hill filmed a cameo in which she played the stenographer during her own questioning. The shot was composed so that her face and the face of Ellen McElduff playing her would ironically be seen on split sides of the screen. But it didn't make the final cut. Her cameo can be seen as an outtake on the 2-disc special edition DVD.
One of two films that revolves on the assassination of President Kennedy where Wayne Tippit plays an FBI agent, the other film being Running Against Time (1990).
Mel Gibson also passed on the chance to play Jim Garrison.
When discussing the Oswald impersonators, Laurie Metcalf's character tells them about one of the impostors going to buy a car. The salesman remembers him being 5"7 but the real Oswald was 5"11. In reality, Frank Whaley, who plays the impostor, is 5"7 1/2, while Gary Oldman, who plays Oswald, is 5"9.
Martin Sheen the narrator of the prologue, played President Kennedy in the TV miniseries Kennedy (1983).
The movie mentions a conflict of interest connection between Vice President Johnson and a military contractor called Brown and Root and its financial motivations in preventing Kennedy's ending the Vietnam war as a motive for Kennedy's assassination. The same corporation, now known as Kellog Brown and Root (KBR) a subsidiary of Halliburton, was a military contractor connected with Vice President Cheney.
The first draft of the screenplay was 190 pages long, pared down to 156 pages for shooting.
Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte were both considered for the role of Jim Garrison. Bridges was turned down because he was not a major box-office draw, while Nolte was considered to be too old. He later worked with Stone in U Turn (1997).
Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich turned down the role of David Ferrie.
James Woods was offered the part of David Ferrie but turned it down. Woods had originally wanted the part of Jim Garrison.
Frank Whaley, who plays one of the Oswald impostors, plays Lee Harvey Oswald in Fatal Deception: Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald (1993).
Kevin Costner is 6"1, six inches shorter than the real Jim Garrison.
Edward Asner who plays Guy Bannister, also narrates the audiobook of 'On The Trail of the Assassins' on which the film is based.
Tommy Lee Jones (who plays 'Clay Shaw') and director Oliver Stone were both born on the same day.
No one on Jim Garrison's team was called Bill Broussard, but Garrison did frequently visit a restaurant in New Orleans called "Broussard's" (as told in his book "On the Trail of the Assassins").
The alleged assassin rifle - the Mannlicher Carcano - was of Italian manufacture.
Oliver Stone went to Japan personally to promote the movie.

Director Cameo 

Oliver Stone:  Oliver Stone can be seen very briefly in the assassination re-enactment. Look very close for him as the Secret Service agent who runs towards the back of the limo after the fatal headshot.


The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Garrison's meeting with Mr. X was originally scripted and shot as two different meetings, the second one occurring after Garrison has lost the case, and it would have been the last scene in the film. During post-production, the two meetings were weaved into one. On the Special Edition DVD the complete alternate scene is available.

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