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Wednesday, November 20th, 2002


JFK, Nixon, Oliver Stone and Me: An Idealist's Journey from Capitol Hill to Hollywood Hell


Back When I Was a Stoner...

A review by Adrienne Miller

Here's a book with an audience of about five.

I know this because when I start in at parties on how I've seen the Oliver Stone-voiceover DVD version of Wall Street roughly eighteen times, people sort of nod politely, then back away, and quick. Although I remain afraid of U-Turn, and have for that reason avoided it, I know how the statement "Oliver Stone is a genuine artist" won't make you any new friends. In this dismally written yet nevertheless entertaining memoir by a disgruntled ex-Stone employee, O.S. (as he is cleverly known) comes across as the most interesting and sympathetic character around. This was surely not the disgruntled ex-employee's intent. Eric Hamburg, a producer of Nixon and Any Given Sunday, is neither interesting nor sympathetic, but naive, churlish, and dim.

Hamburg met Stone when he was a young staffer for John Kerry. Some years later, Hamburg sent Stone a letter, which, long story short, prompted Stone to hire him. Once at Ixtlan, Stone's production company, Hamburg is surprised by his new colleagues' careerism, insecurity, opportunism, overall nastiness, etc. His constant wide-eyed, exclamation-marked surprise at just about everything in Hollywood ("The Disney people even sent a limo for us!") quickly grows wearisome. Whereas Hamburg is a galumphing master of the obvious ("[m]y own theory is that people just didn't want to see a three-hour movie about Nixon" and "I believe that 1968 was a watershed year in America" and "Tony Hopkins could pour out emotion on cue. But then that's what makes him a great actor"), Stone is tricky, slippery, elusive. And Stone's personality, let's call them "quirks," that drive Hamburg up the wall are precisely the ones that make him so weird and more fascinating (his obsession with Rodney Dangerfield and Don Rickles, for instance). I can't for the life of me see these two in the same room together, but then, for the sake of this mad train wreck of a book, I for one (I'm one out of the five) am glad they were.

Adrienne Miller is Esquire's literary editor.

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