Nixon the movie? The film-maker who brought us JFK and Natural Born Killers is in danger of corrupting the minds of Americans, just like Tricky Dicky himself
When it was announced last month that your next movie will be a biography of America's disgraced 37th president, a joke circulated in Hollywood. It was that the poster for Oliver Stone's Nixon would have a line across the top reading "He was a paranoid genius driven mad by power and ambition ..." Then there would be a gap and the sentence would conclude "... and that's just the director."

It's hard not to feel that you and the late President Nixon were in some sense made for each other. Both intelligent and talented - he could have been a great president, you could have been a great film director - you were both handicapped by an indifference to the facts. I understand that there is a substantive difference. Nixon broke the law and ignored the Constitution. You have broken only the laws of historical film-making. Yet both of you are guilty of corrupting the minds of Americans.

You see, I read in the papers leaks from the working script of Nixon. Reportedly, there is a sequence in which Nixon, as Vice-President, sets up a hit squad of mafiosi, CIA, Cubans and right-wing businessmen to kill Fidel Castro. Apparently they fail, but later in the movie they organise the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas.

When I read this, Mr Stone, I shivered. Because when I was watching your last historical farrago, JFK, I noticed an interesting omission. Although your film argues that President Kennedy was assassinated by a secret conspiracy of about a thousand people including Cubans, mafiosi, generals, arms manufacturers, Lyndon Johnson and Senator Tom Cobbleigh, I noticed that you had left one possible conspirator out. In one of the oddities of American history, Richard Nixon was in Dallas, on "business", the day JFK was shot. How, I wondered, could you leave him out of your collusion stew?

Now I understand. Nixon, at the time, was alive to protest or sue. Now he is dead, you have to make a whole other movie just to pin Dallas on him.

Let me make clear that this defence of him against you is precisely the reverse of being personal. I think that Nixon was, in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, "so crooked he had to hire servants to screw his trousers on". JFK established you, in terms of visual and narrative power, as one of America's great film-makers. But there is such a thing as historical responsibility. Your biographical movies steal the narrative manner of factual presentation. There are Americans who may think your nonsense about how the underground thousand killed Jack Kennedy is what really happened.

There is a useful American rebuke to the deluded and terminally earnest: "Get a life!" But I think we have to say to you, with regard to these movie biographies: "Get the life!" Because the way you're going, you'll end up like Nixon: a talented man destroyed by a psychological flaw.

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