'JFK' director Oliver Stone still has questions about assassination

Oliver Stone discusses his film "JFK" and the further investigation into a conspiracy. File Photo by Rocco Spaziani/UPI
1 of 5 | Oliver Stone discusses his film "JFK" and the further investigation into a conspiracy. File Photo by Rocco Spaziani/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Oliver Stone's 1991 movie JFK, available on 4K UHD, provoked further inquiry in the 1990s into President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Though New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) was the film's protagonist, Stone said Garrison did not have a very strong case in 1969.


"He had a thin case, no question about it," Stone told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "Garrison became his own worst enemy by not even bringing some of the people he wanted to bring to trial as witnesses, because he was preserving their privacy and their integrity."

Garrison prosecuted Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones) as a conspirator in the plot to kill Kennedy. Though Garrison raised doubts about Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman, and the location from which the fatal shot was fired, Shaw was acquitted.


Still, Stone said the trial was monumental for screening the footage by Abraham Zapruder of Kennedy's motorcade, and for poking holes in the conclusions of the autopsy performed at Bethesda Naval Hospital, including the entry and exit wounds.

Stone directed a new documentary, JFK Revisited, in 2021 with updated evidence about inconsistencies in the official story on Kennedy's assassination. Stone said Navy Cmdrs. James Humes and Thornton Boswell were not qualified to perform an autopsy in a murder case.

"The autopsy at Bethesda is a farce," Stone said. "This is a very complicated murder case with shots from every side, seven wounds, two different victims. They screwed up everything."

Garrison's investigation was criticized, including by his DA successor Harry Connick Sr. for calling spurious witnesses and unfairly targeting Shaw. Garrison was acquitted on charges of taking bribes in a separate case.

Even though he recognized Garrison's case against Shaw was thin, Stone said he believed Garrison to be honest. Stone and Costner met with Garrison after reading his book, On the Trail of the Assassin, which was the basis for the film, along with Jim Marrs' Crossfire: the Plot That Killed Kennedy.

"I trusted Jim," Stone said. "I really believe in the honesty and the integrity of Jim Garrison."


Stone said his research into Garrison showed he was well liked by the people of New Orleans, who elected him DA twice. Furthermore, after he was cleared of bribery charges, the people of New Orleans elected Garrison judge of Louisiana's 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Stone said he credited Garrison's trial with raising the possibility of a government conspiracy to the public. Stone said his hope for JFK was to get viewers thinking about the official story that does not add up.

Characters in JFK suggest the CIA conspired to assassinate Kennedy. The film also shows Garrison testing Oswald's supposed shot from the Texas Book Depository, which Stone said should be questioned.

"A guy shoots the president out of an impossible perch on a window that no marksman has ever matched," Stone said. "He dies, so there's no evidence. There's no trial."

Stone said he was also skeptical that Oswald's assassin, Jack Ruby, was diagnosed with liver, lung and brain cancer in December 1966 before he was able to testify at a retrial for his murder conviction. Ruby died Jan. 3, 1967 and other witness deaths were addressed in books like Hit List and JFK: The Dead Witnesses.


"Then the assassin of Oswald is bumped off in a strange cancer case a month before he's supposed to testify," Stone said. "Initially some 26 witnesses that are of interest die violently in the next period of time."

Stone said he believed Kennedy would have enacted policies in a second term that threatened other government interests. Stone said Kennedy would have been able to end the Cold War in partnership with Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev in a second term.

"Kennedy was a world changer," Stone said. "He couldn't do too much in his first term because he was realistic. He knew he had to get re-elected."

Stone said Kennedy was launching cooperative international policies, like the Alliance for Progress for economic cooperation between the United States and Latin America.

Stone said he has been disappointed in every U.S. president since Kennedy. Stone specifically criticized Jimmy Carter's covert aid to the mujahedin in Afghanistan, George W. Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Barack Obama's acceptance of Wall Street campaign donations and Joe Biden's support of the Ukraine war.


"We've had terrible leadership in the United States, which is why we're going into the toilet as fast as possible," Stone said. "Kennedy was not a colonialist. He did not see the world in oppressive terms like we still do."

Stone said that whether viewers believe the theories put forth by Garrison or his successors in JFK: Revisited, it is important that people think for themselves.

"Don't buy anything the government ever says again," Stone said. "The country will never get its conscience together and get its history together as long as we believe them."

At the time of JFK's release, the House Select Committee on Assassinations was not due to release files pertaining to the Kennedy assassination until 2029. In 1992, Congress enacted the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act and began releasing files.

Still, Stone said he worried that people would avoid challenging their pre-existing beliefs.

"Everybody in the world has an opinion," Stone said. "It's just that they'd rather have an opinion than know anything. That's what bothers me."

After releasing 13,000 more files in 2022, Biden issued a memo on June 30 postponing the release of certain additional files. Stone said he fears that postponement will be permanent.


"Biden did something that is just not legal," Stone said. "He contradicted Congress and he got away with it."

Stone credited producer Robert S. Wilson for encouraging him to delve back into the Kennedy assassination for the 2021 documentary. Stone also directed the nuclear energy documentary Nuclear Now last year.

Stone said he still hopes to write the second part of his memoir, Chasing the Light, and possibly develop one more feature film.

"My battles continue with the truth," Stone said. "Once you enter into a world of thinking for yourself you're in trouble here."

60 years after assassination, a look back at JFK

Texas Gov. John Connally adjusts his tie as President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, settled in rear seats, prepare for a motorcade into Dallas on November 22, 1963. The president assassinated a few hours later. UPI File Photo | License Photo

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