Stone’s View Of Nixon… The New H’wood Hacks

In Oliver Stone’s “Platoon,” the first casualty was innocence. In just about every Stone film since, the first casualty has been script leakage.

Stone tries to keep the contents of his politically charged works under tight wraps, especially after the Washington Post tore apart “JFK” using an early script draft, much of which didn’t make it to the screen.

This column has obtained a recent draft of “Nixon,” by screenwriters Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson. Although some wonder about the merits of spending $42 million on a biography of the disgraced president, the script indicates that when Cinergi stepped up to take New Regency’s place as financier, it bought itself an event picture with more controversy and intrigue than Whitewater. The pic is sure to cause a stir when Cinergi and Hollywood Pictures release it as the ’96 presidential election begins heating up.

The script’s still being honed by Stone, but his depiction of Tricky Dick is far from what might be expected from a director with a decidedly liberal bent. “Nixon” is a sympathetic chronicle of the demons that propelled the conservative Republican to the White House and consumed him.

Nixon is a great role for Anthony Hopkins, and Pat Nixon is ripe territory for Joan Allen, playing the reluctant First Lady. The role of Henry Kissinger, to be played by Paul Sorvino, is being expanded, as is the role of H.R. Haldeman, set for James Woods. J.T. Walsh will play John Erlichman, Peter O’Toole will play Richard Helms, and Diane Ladd will likely cameo as Martha Mitchell, who appears drunk in one scene. (Ladd and Stone’s Ixtlan Prods. have been developing a Mitchell biopic for Ladd to star in.)

After Nixon, the showiest part might well be Bob Hoskins’ J. Edgar Hoover, drawn as an appalling man whose appetite for dirty laundry rivals only his hunger for young men. Hoover becomes a grudgingly important Nixon ally, holding dirt on the president that could bring down his administration.

The sure-to-create-controversy surprise is the assertion that Watergate was hardly the chief reason Nixon stepped down. The script claims Nixon was really done in by much darker secrets, involving foreign policy, coups and assassinations that might have included John F. Kennedy. If some of those elements make it to screen, they will surely promote controversy. But the film isn’t just a conspiracy pic; it aims to give a full picture of the man so many loved to hate.

The film begins production May 1, shooting in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Stone wouldn’t comment.

The director has remained mum as details continue being worked out on his divorce from New Regency’s Arnon Milchan, a relationship that dissolved over the cast and budget of “Nixon.” Sources said the situation should be finalized by March 13, and Cinergi has emerged as a contender to lock Stone into an overall deal. There’s also interest from Fox and Turner Pictures. The latter seems especially aggressive, as sources said Ted Turner called Stone personally, telling the director he’d be the jewel in Turner’s crown.

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