Mr. Stone, Your Turk Is Ready

Finally, someone mentioned Midnight Express. An opening! “Funny that you mention Midnight Express,” said my roommate, seizing the moment, “because we have a Turk right here.”

My freshman year of college, the Yale Political Union, renowned for hosting big-name speakers, invited Oliver Stone to address the group. Being the shy, hesitant type, I spent the whole dinner on the opposite side of the table from Stone, chatting it up, ironically, with the head of the Party of the Right.

Still, my roommate could tell that I wished I could say something to Stone, as I was a real admirer of his work, especially _Salvador_ and _JFK._ For a budding lefty teen with filmmaking dreams in the '80s, Oliver Stone was God.

Finally, someone mentioned _Midnight Express._ An opening! “Funny that you mention _Midnight Express_,” said my roommate, seizing the moment, “because we have a Turk right here.”

The table went silent. The people between Oliver Stone and me leaned away, so we could look in each other’s eyes. Beat. “You’re Turkish?” he asked, hesitantly. I nodded yes.

“What do you think of that movie?”

For a Turk, as I am sure you might imagine, _Midnight Express_ is a touchy topic. For years and years, especially until the tourism boom of the mid- to late '90s, that film was the extent of contact most people in the West had with Turkey. Whenever I told somebody I was Turkish, the response almost always involved someone asking me what I thought of _Midnight Express._ This gets old, and annoying. While our mortal enemies the Greeks were being depicted as having sun-dappled beaches and a mighty zest for life, we Turks had to live down our reputation as a bunch of ass-raping psychopaths. To be able to confront that purportedly fact-based film’s Oscar-winning screenwriter in person was an opportunity many of my fellow countrymen would have paid good money for.

Except that I had never seen _Midnight Express._ So I just hemmed and hawed.

“You know, the Turkish government renews its offer of a million dollars to me every year to burn that film,” Stone said, perhaps sensing I had little to offer and graciously helping me out of my corner. That was it. The folks in between leaned forward again, and the conversation returned to _JFK,_ Vietnam, and how best to torch the magazine editors. The dude from the Party of the Right gave me a sheepish, commiserating look. My roommate nodded.

Stone and I never spoke again.


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