WEIRDLAND: Frozen in Time: Oliver Stone's JFK (100th Anniversary) & The Doors

Monday, May 22, 2017

Frozen in Time: Oliver Stone's JFK (100th Anniversary) & The Doors

President John F. Kennedy would be 100 years old on May 29, 2017, but he is forever frozen in time at age 46, following his assassination in 1963. To be exact, JFK served two years, 10 months and two days as president, the fifth-shortest time in office among the nation’s 45 presidents, but his legend has no end. Candidates of all political persuasions have imitated his charisma and style, but there was only one JFK. His centenary brings new books, the most notable probably “The Road to Camelot”, a provocative reconstruction of his “five-year campaign” for the White House. Kennedy’s quotations still apply to life in America today and offer plenty of material the current president might want to study. “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer,” Kennedy said. Tourists visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota in the mid-1990s were asked to pick their favorite president, and a majority selected John F. Kennedy—“the president of the world” had passed, a common thought from a wintry November day 54 years in our past. 

Thurston Clarke, in his book “J.F.K.’s Last Hundred Days” argues passionately that J.F.K. was moving ever more decisively left, flapping his wings like a dove, just before he was killed. The evidence is that Kennedy began to argue, more loudly than he had before, that American politicians should do everything possible to avoid provoking a nuclear holocaust that would destroy civilization. Kennedy was planning to get out of Vietnam by the end of 1965, or at least had made up his mind not to get drawn any farther in.  Paranoid as the period was, it was in ways more open. Oswald’s captors decided that he would have to be shown to the press, and arranged a midnight press conference for him, something that would not happen today. Source:

More than 25 years after its premiere, JFK (1991) is the way most Americans now learn about one of the most traumatic events in their recent history. According to Robert Brent Toplin, a historian who admires Oliver Stone, JFK has probably “had a greater impact on public opinion than any other work of art in American history.” Indeed, the movie remains a great source of pride for Stone, if not his masterpiece. Allegedly, the film exposed a fascist-led coup that “hit the central nerve core of the establishment,” and has “held up very well over time,” the director contended recently at the Lucca Film Festival in April, 2017. Source:

The Doors (1991) was not considered a box-office success. But in some ways, The Doors was like Scarface—it may not have fared that well at the box office, but it was a film that people would remember. Yet as far as the movie industry was concerned, a lot of people were looking for Stone to fail and now they felt justified. Many wondered if he would become a more cautious filmmaker and stay a little closer to the safety of the Hollywood system. Stone's answer was his most outrageous, biggest, and riskiest project ever: JFK. "Yeah, I missed out on the sixties," Stone admits. "I'm not angry about it, but I am saddened that I missed it—especially the healthy male/female relationships. I never had a coeducational existence. The sixties had this enormous sense of sexual liberation. Women started to come out of the closet and fucking was 'in'. It was stylish, fashionable. I missed all that, and the honest, open man/woman communication that came with it." 

In the original screenplay Jim Morrison was talking about death in a dramatic scene and he begged Pam: 'Tell me your cunt is mine.' And in that scene Pam bends over and says, 'Fuck me, Jim.' Some of the actors were uncomfortable auditioning, not just the actresses. Even Christian Slater was uncomfortable doing that scene during the casting process. About sixty actresses auditioned for Pam's role, one of them was Patricia Arquette. Former Doors' manager Bill Siddons felt the script focused "virtually, exclusively on the more sensational side of Jim's personality and not the man I knew: a bright, warm human being who actually gave a shit about people." Though Kilmer did look amazingly like Morrison in many ways, his eyes were not nearly as piercing and deepset. People generally wouldn't notice this, but those who were most drawn to Morrison's eyes would probably never be convinced. As Val Kilmer found with Jim Morrison, Meg Ryan's biggest obstacle was the conflicting accounts she received about Pamela Courson. "It was hell researching her," Ryan said. "One person would say she was a heroin addict, another person would say, no, she was afraid of needles. Some people said she was a monster, mean and awful, and others said, no, she was the sweetest thing that ever came down the pike. The only thing that everyone agreed on was that she was a redhead." 

Oliver Stone saw Jim and Pam's relationship as a great love story: "She may be basically a figure of innocence, but I see the movie character of Pam as a monster, too. She's very much a sixties child, not too thoughtful. She decides to ride the snake with Jim, and once having ridden that snake, proves she can hold on and stay with him all the way out—till the point where she's willing to die with him. What I like in their story is that Jim had this loyalty, too. He stuck with her to the end. That's at the center of the movie. He really loved her." Stone adds: "Morrison was even darker than we showed in a lot of ways—what struck me was his sadness and depression. I assumed from the records that he had a lot more fun, but it seemed like he had become this Dionysian figure whom was denied fun. The beautiful women I thought would be all around him were not, on closer inspection, so beautiful after all." Stone did seem to miss Morrison's humor in the film: "I believe Morrison had a terrific sense of humor and I'm not so sure we caught it [onscreen]. We tried to show the holy and the fool at the same time. People might say I didn't get enough holy. I couldn't find the exact Jim. He's an enigma. Nobody could play Jim Morrison but Jim Morrison," concedes Stone. —"Stone: The Controversies, Excesses, And Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker" (1995) by James Riordan


Anonymous said...

JFK is a great film, but The Doors was a failed experiment, I love the photos you posted!

Elena said...

yes, I think The Doors was a lost opportunity in many ways, thanks for your compliment, you're very welcome!