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JFK (1991) Poster

(1991)

Trivia

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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
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.
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.
In preparation for her portrayal of Marina Oswald, Beata Pozniak Daniels 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.
"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.
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.
Director Oliver Stone's favorite film of his own.
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.
Making Dealey Plaza look the same as it did in 1963 cost $4 million.
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.
Dr. Marion Jenkins, the anesthesiologist, 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).
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.
After reading Jim Garrison's book, Oliver Stone immediately bought the rights with his own money.
Donald Sutherland's memorable monologue, as the mysterious Washington informant known only as X, lasts for 16 minutes.
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.
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 (1986). After reading the book, Stone knew he'd found a new film project.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The real Jim Garrison never made the speech that Costner makes at the end of the movie. It was taken from several speeches that he gave and some of it from his book.
The Angola prison scene was filmed entirely on location with the real guards and inmates.
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).
Oliver Stone regards this film as his The Godfather (1972).
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Is the only film that stars both Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau without the two of them sharing a scene.
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.
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.
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."
Don Johnson tried hard to get the part of Jim Garrison. He was turned down, as Oliver Stone and the producers felt the actors own public image would make him a hard sell as Garrison.
Oliver Stone cast Kevin Costner in the lead role based on his performance in the Untouchables (1987). He wanted him to be just as obsessed with solving Kennedy's assassination in this film as he was with capturing Al Capone in that film. Coincidently, Costner got both roles in JFK and the untouchables after the two primary choices, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford turned it down.
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.
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.
John Candy was picked by Oliver Stone to portray Dean Andrews because he bore a very strong resemblance to the man.
Many actors waived their usual fees to appear in the film.
"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).
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).
When Oliver Stone spoke at the National Press Club about the movie, someone asked if he meant to insinuate that the government was involved in the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy as well as JFK's. He replied with a simple one word answer, yes.
24 researchers were involved in the scripting process.
Marlon Brando turned down the role of X.
Director Oliver Stone's first two choices to play Jim Garrison were Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson.
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.
Kevin Costner researched the character of Jim Garrison extensively, including meeting the man himself as well as his friends and enemies.
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.
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.
Joe Pesci's name does not appear on the opening credits.
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.
Joe Pesci once said that he never wanted to work with Oliver Stone again because he felt that Stone was a very demanding director.
" [O]ne may smile, and smile, and be a villain" is from William Shakespeare's "Hamlet", Act I, Scene V.
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.
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.
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.
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 known as "The Beltway" around the nation's capital. The nickname is common to natives and those who work in Washington D.C.
Kevin Costner breaks the "4th Wall" during his closing statements in the courtroom scene. Staring directly into the camera he tells the audience, "it's up to you" making reference that it's up to US citizens to show the world that they live in a democracy.
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. Ruth Paine alerted Lee to the job at the Texas School Book Depository.
Cameo: The real Jim Garrison appears in the film as Judge Earl Warren.
In Bull Durham (1988), Kevin Costner's character stated "... I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone...".
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.
Jim 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.
Frank Whaley was originally cast as Lee Harvey Oswald but was replaced by Gary Oldman. As a consolation, Oliver Stone cast Whaley in the role of the Oswald Imposter.
Initially, Kevin Costner turned down the chance to play Jim Garrison.
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.
There are 2,800 shots in the film.
In preparation for the film, Tommy Lee Jones interviewed Jim Garrison on three different occasions and talked to others who had worked with Clay Shaw and knew him.
James Woods was offered the part of David Ferrie but turned it down. Woods had originally wanted the part of Jim Garrison.
The film cast includes six Oscar winners: Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Joe Pesci; and two Oscar nominees Gary Oldman and Sally Kirkland.
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.
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.
The fifth pairing out of ten movies of comic actors and great friends Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
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, Jeff Goldblum, Martin Landau, John Malkovich and Gary Oldman were considered for David Ferrie.
When David Ferrie meets with Garrison the second time at the Fontainebleau, he recites a line of poetry: "Oh what a web we weave when we practice to deceive." This is a paraphrased quote from "Marmion", an epic poem written by Walter Scott in 1808. The actual line is: "Oh, what a tangled web we weave When first we practise to deceive!"
Oliver Stone originally wanted Danny Aiello to play Jack Ruby; Aiello later played Ruby in Ruby (1992).
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Martin Landau, Robert Loggia, Paul Newman, Peter O'Toole, Gregory Peck and Roy Scheider were considered for the role of Clay Shaw.
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Kevin Costner has dyed grey hair and wears glasses in this film to make him look older.
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Tommy Lee Jones made the decision to have himself painted gold.
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In New Orleans, director Oliver Stone borrowed author Anne Rice's Labrador Retriever to portray the Garrison family's dog.
"Let justice be done though the heavens fall" is an old Roman maxim: Fiat justitia ruat caelum.
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.
Matt Dillon, Dennis Quaid, James Spader, Tom Sizemore, and Michael Wincott were considered for Willie O'Keefe.
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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.
Rated #5 of the 25 most controversial movies of all time. Entertainment Weekly, 16 June 2006.
Martin Sheen the narrator of the prologue, played President Kennedy in the TV miniseries Kennedy (1983).
Brian Dennehy, Glenn Ford and Gene Hackman were considered for Guy Bannister.
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Elizabeth McGovern and Cybill Shepherd were considered for the role of Liz Garrison.
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Charlie Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise and D.B. Sweeney were considered for Lee Harvey Oswald.
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Kevin Costner is 6"1, six inches shorter than the real Jim Garrison.
The first draft of the screenplay was 190 pages long, pared down to 156 pages for shooting.
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.
Ironically, one of the reasons why it is known Clay Shaw was homosexual is that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover kept a file on Shaw and had the FBI spy on his romantic life.
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Despite only working four days on the film, Kevin Bacon credits it with revitalizing his career, referring to it as a "turning point".
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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).
Edward Asner who plays Guy Bannister, also narrates the audiobook of 'On The Trail of the Assassins' on which the film is based.
In the film, Clay Shaw calls his butler Smedley, after Major General Smedley Butler, the most decorated U.S. Marine, with vast military career, and later on, in 1934, revealed the business Plot, a fascist conspiracy to overthrow president Roosevelt.
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Frank Whaley, who plays one of the Oswald impostors, plays Lee Harvey Oswald in Fatal Deception: Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald (1993).
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Danny DeVito, Larry Drake and John Goodman were considered for Dean Andrews.
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While Kevin Costner makes his closing summation as Jim Garrison and is tearful, although the scene wasn't scripted that way it added powerful emotion and - fortunately for Costner - a reshoot wasn't necessary with him not tearful.
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Jack Martin was nearly played by Harry Dean Stanton.
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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").
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Walter Matthau portrays Senator Russell B. Long, not Senator Huey P. Long. Huey Long was assassinated in 1935 in Baton Rouge, LA. He wasn't alive at the time of the JFK assassination. Russell is Huey's son.
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Two actors in this film appeared on the "Seinfeld" series: Wayne Knight (Numa Bertel) as Newman (especially in the 2-part "The Boyfriend" which spoofed the JFK shooting theory) and Brian Doyle-Murray (Jack Ruby) who played the father in Seinfeld: The Bubble Boy (1992). Meanwhile, Lolita Davidovich (Beverly) played Beverly in an episode of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000).
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The alleged assassin rifle - the Mannlicher Carcano - was of Italian manufacture.
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One of three cinema movies featuring actors Gary Oldman and Kevin Bacon. The movies are JFK (1991), Criminal Law (1988), and Murder in the First (1995).
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Oliver Stone went to Japan personally to promote the movie.
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Footage of the Kennedy assassination was edited into Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992). Both Oliver Stone and Lee were film students in NYU with Martin Scorsese as their film teacher.
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Both Director Oliver Stone and Actor Tommy Lee Jones who have worked together on several other occasions (Heaven and Earth, Natural Born Killers) share the exact same birth date and year as one another. September 15 1946.
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Goldie Hawn was considered for the role of Rose Cheramie.
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One of three Oliver Stone directed films [to date, November 2016] about an American President which has a title referencing the name of the American president who is the subject of the movie. The first was JFK (1991), JFK being an acronym nick-name for assassinated American President John F. Kennedy; the second was Nixon (1995), which is the surname or last name of American President Richard Nixon; and the third was W. (2008), a letter nick-name referencing American President George W. Bush.
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Over fifty cast and crew, mainly the latter, worked on both Nixon (1995) and director Oliver Stone's earlier American President picture, JFK (1991).
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Kurt Russell, Christopher Lambert, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Campbell, Michael Biehn, Stephen Lang, Ron Perlman and Ed Harris were considered to play Jim Garrison.
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The character X is a composite of L. Fletcher Prouty, Deep Throat, and the little man inside the head of Jim Garrison.
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X, played by Donald Sutherland, says he spent World War 2 in Yugoslavia. Kelly's Heroes, a World War 2 film, was filmed in Yugoslavia.
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Donald Sutherland and Dale Dye co-starred in this movie and in Outbreak. In this movie, Dye was Sutherland's superior officer. In Outbreak, their roles were reversed.
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Kevin Costner plays Jim Garrison in this film. In The Doors (1991) - released the same year and also directed by Oliver Stone - Val Kilmer plays Jim Morrison, so therefore both actors play characters with the same first name.
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Harry Dean Stanton was considered for the role of Jack Martin.
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Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek and Lolita Davidovich have all been in films directed by Brian De Palma. Costner in The Untouchables (1987), Spacek in Carrie (1976) and Davidovich in Raising Cain (1992).
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Narrator Martin Sheen previously played Kennedy himself in Kennedy (1983). He also appeared in Oliver Stone's earlier film Wall Street (1987), in a role originally written for Jack Lemmon. Lemmon's first wife, Cynthia Stone, was later married to Cliff Robertson, who played Kennedy in PT 109 (1963). Sheen and Robertson also both later played Ben Parker in Spider-Man (2002) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).
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Walter Matthau plays one of the people who doubted the 'official' version of the assassination from the beginning. Ironically, in an earlier film role he recalls a conversation with a younger woman in which he asked, "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" His date responded, "Ted Kennedy was shot?" Clearly, she was too young for him to be dating.
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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.

Spoilers 

The trivia items 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.
When the movie was released, there was speculation that the character X didn't exist and claims that Oliver Stone made him and his information up. However after the films release when Stone spoke at the National Press Club, he was asked about X and where he came from. Stone then said the character X is mainly based on Fletcher Prouty, who was at the event on stage with Stone, and said that he met him a couple years before the movie was made. The meeting between Garrison and X never actually took place between them two, but all the information that X tells Garrison in the movie, he actually told to Stone when they met. Stone said he took the liberty of having them meet in the movie because Jim Garrison pretty much came to the same conclusion as Prouty did as to why Kennedy was killed.

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