In JFK, Kevin Costner meets secretly with Donald Sutherland in a park in Washington DC. Donald discusses elements of the assassination conspiracy. Towards the end of the scene he counts off 3 points on his fingers:

"1 - Why was Kennedy killed?" This is the thumbs-up symbol, sometimes used to communicate "Everything is set; go ahead with our plan". enter image description here

"2 - Who benefited?" His thumb and first finger are extended, like a gun, symbolizing (to me) the actual assassination. enter image description here

"3 - Who has the power to cover it up?" His last three fingers are extended, leaving his index finger and thumb (partially hidden) in the shape of an "OK" symbol, indicating success with the plan.

enter image description here

This originally caught my attention because people typically count off numbers with their fingers much differently than this. After I considered the context of the scene, the symbolic meaning became clear. Now, I'm dazzled by these gestures each time I watch this.

My question is:

  • Was that in the script?
  • Did Donald Sutherland come up with it? Or did director Oliver Stone come up with it?

You can see the tense scene below. The gestures I'm talking about start at the 4-minute mark.

  • 6
    What indicates to you this is anything other than how he counts numbers? The only thing really out of the ordinary to me is the switch between two and three. Personally, I start with my thumb when counting.
    – Catija
    May 2 '17 at 23:22
  • (1) Go ahead, (2) Shoot, (3) OK: Interesting theory.
    – John
    May 3 '17 at 0:33
  • 2
    The character of Mr. X was based on Fletcher Prouty. Oliver Stone was a big fan of Prouty and hired him as a technical advisor. He may have done this with his hands but I can't find anything online, but there are many videos of Fletcher Prouty discussing JFK on Youtube.
    – user43097
    May 3 '17 at 2:05
  • @Catija That's a good question, and I have no "proof". However, in the context of the scene it sure makes sense! Like you, I start counting with my thumb, and my "two" may look like a gun. But I have never switched to my last three fingers (middle, ring, and pinky) for "three". Since that caught my attention, and all 3 symbols have dual meanings as I described, it seemed like something a director or actor or writer would inject to give an additional layer of meaning to a scene. I'm hoping someone else has seen something talking about the (presumed) intentionality of it. May 3 '17 at 2:14
  • Just because it is not the usual way of finger-counting, it doesn't mean some people don't use it. I'm sure I have seen this before in movies or real-life even (unfortunately I can't come up with a movie example for this). What I can point to is the scene in Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards, where the gestapo major recognizes one of the officers as a spy due to his depiction of 3 (index, middle and ring finger instead of thumb, index and middle finger). So it might just be a thing that Donald does when finger-counting.
    – Bojan B
    May 3 '17 at 6:28

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