The Dec. 10 airing of TNT's Kissinger and Nixon, starring Ron Silver and Beau Bridges, could be bad news for Oliver Stone's $42 million Nixon, with Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, which will open just 10 days later. So far, both sides are being politic about the timing. ''We wish them well,'' says Stone spokesman Stephen Rivers. ''They're totally different projects with different stories and different audiences.'' Stone's Nixon is a sprawling epic with a huge cast, while Kissinger and Nixon, says TNT's Susan Binford, focuses on ''that six-month period when we were in the Paris peace talks.''
Still, Stone may wish he could burn this particular Nixon tape. After all, in 1993, TNT's similarly timed Geronimo badly wounded a film version with Jason Patric. And this time, critics may not be able to resist a comparison. While Bridges' prosthetically aided Nixon is uncannily accurate, Disney's Nixon trailer shows Hopkins' take to be less literal. TNT's movie could be a ''bump in the road'' for Stone's, says Paramount distribution head Wayne Lewellen, but ''if the film is strong enough, people will have to see it.'' If not, viewers may not have Nixon to kick around for long.