Posted on Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 by Russ Fischer
For several years, Oliver Stone has been toying with a new Vietnam War film called Pinkville, which would be oriented around the Mai Lai Massacre of 1968. In 2007 the movie seemed on the verge of shooting. It had a cast: Bruce Willis, Woody Harrelson, Michael Pitt, Channing Tatum, Michael Pena and more. But the writer’s strike put a block in front of the film, and it never got back on track.
Now, Oliver Stone says on the commentary track for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps that he has talked to Shia LaBeouf about acting in Pinkville.
IGN reports the mention and suggests that Mr. LeBeouf would take the role formerly set for Channing Tatum: Hugh Thompson, a US Army helicopter pilot.
Pinkville could be a very difficult film. It is based around a massacre where US forces were the bad guys, and while Vietnam isn’t the hot-button issue it once was, any story that presents US troops in a bad light is going to face serious scrutiny.
A lot of readers might not be familiar with the event — it was certainly before my time, but the stories of the massacre lingered for years afterward. The short form is that US soldiers killed (and in some cases, raped and mutilated) between 300 and 500 unarmed civilians in the hamlet of My Lai. More than two dozen soldiers were implicated in the killings, but only one was convicted: Second Lieutenant William Calley.
Hugh Thompson saw evidence of the killings and radioed the following message:
It looks to me like there’s an awful lot of unnecessary killing going on down there. Something ain’t right about this. There’s bodies everywhere. There’s a ditch full of bodies that we saw. There’s something wrong here.
Thompson soon placed his helicopter between advancing US troops and a small group of Vietnamese civilians who were retreating into a shelter. He told his gunners to open fire on the soldiers if they attacked the civilians. He reported the massacre, which reportedly had the effect of canceling other planned movements against similar villages. Thompson was given the Distinguished Flying Cross, though the citation spelled out fabricated circumstances for the award. (I’m really trying not to picture Shia looking on as things were unfolding, crying “nonoNoNoNO!” but I can’t avoid it.)
The massacre was initially covered up, but when the news became public there were military opinions that said Thompson should be court-marshalled, and he faced severe (and often anonymous) blowback for his role in reporting the event. Thirty years later, Thompson and his gunners were awarded the Soldier’s Medal, with Major General Michael Ackerman saying “It was the ability to do the right thing even at the risk of their personal safety that guided these soldiers to do what they did.”