”Malcolm is just as important as JFK,” Spike Lee declared last spring, insisting that Warner Bros. grant him as big a budget and as long a running time as Oliver Stone got to pay homage to his favorite slain ’60s leader. The tactic worked: The studio ultimately coughed up $33 million (JFK cost $40 mil) and allowed Lee a cut of 201 minutes (JFK runs 188 minutes). But the parallels between the two films only begin there:
*Stone reportedly quashed Libra, a competing film about the assassination.
*Before shooting had ended, reporter George Lardner Jr. accused Stone of gross historical distortions.
*Stone incurred great expense securing 22-second Zapruder film.
*Film begins with historical-wrap-up montage, to voice-over narration by Martin Sheen.
*Film suggests Kennedy was murdered by conspiracy between disgruntled Castro opponents, FBI, CIA, and LBJ.
*JFK has 212 speaking parts.
*Countering critics’ view of JFK as a hawk, movie postulates that just before his death he planned to permanently withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam.
*Conspiracists portrayed as evil in star turns by Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Gary Oldman, Ed Asner, and John Candy.
*Movie ratifies cost of hero’s dedication in bedroom scene, where he tells wife he has been a bad husband and father. She comforts him.
*Late in film, lead actor turns to camera and says of JFK’s murder, ”Do not forget your dying king… it’s up to you.”
*Stone disarms potential critics by charging they’re part of JFK conspiracy.
*Lee quashed Warner’s original choice to direct Malcolm X, Norman Jewison.
*Before shooting had begun, writer Amiri Baraka speculated Lee’s film would contain gross historical distortions.
*Lee incurred great expense securing 45 seconds of Rodney King video.
*Film ends with historical-wrap-up montage, to voice-over narration by Ossie Davis.
*Film suggests Malcolm was murdered by conspiracy between disgruntled Nation of Islam leaders and U.S. agents.
*Malcolm X has 175 speaking parts.
*Countering critics’ view of Malcolm as a militant black supremacist, movie postulates that before his death he planned to permanently renounce violent tactics.
*Whites portrayed as evil in cameos by William Kunstler, Karen Allen, Christopher Plummer, John Sayles, and Peter Boyle.
*Movie questions cost of hero’s dedication in bedroom scene, where he tells wife he has been a bad husband and father. She doesn’t disagree with him.
*Late in film, lead actor turns to camera and says of JFK’s murder, ”I say it’s justice.”
*Lee disarms potential critics by charging they’re racist.