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Oliver Stone

Stone at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, 2009
Born William Oliver Stone
September 15, 1946 (1946-09-15) (age 63)
New York City, New York, USA
Occupation film director, producer and screenwriter
Years active 1971 - present
Spouse(s) Najwa Sarkis (1971-1977)
Elizabeth Stone (1981-1993)
Sun-jung Jung (1996-Present)

William Oliver Stone (born September 15, 1946) is an American film director and screenwriter. Stone came to prominence in the late 1980s and the early 1990s as a director with a series of films about the Vietnam War, in which he had participated as an American infantry soldier, and his work continues to focus frequently on contemporary political and cultural issues, often controversially. His work has earned him three Academy Awards. His first Oscar was for Best Adapted Screenplay for Midnight Express (1978). He won Academy Awards for Directing Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989), both of which were centered on the Vietnam War.

A notable feature of Stone's directing style is the use of many different cameras and film formats, from VHS to 8 mm film to 70 mm film. He sometimes uses several formats in a single scene, as in Natural Born Killers (1994) and JFK (1991).[1]


Early life and career

Stone was born in New York City, the son of Jacqueline (née Goddet) and Louis Stone, a stockbroker.[2] He grew up affluent and lived in townhouses in Manhattan and Stamford, Connecticut. His father was Jewish and his mother a Roman Catholic of French birth, and Stone was raised an Episcopalian as a compromise[3] but has since converted to Buddhism. Stone attended Trinity School before his parents sent him away to attend The Hill School, an exclusive college-preparatory school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. His parents divorced when he was 15, due to his father's extramarital affairs with the wives of several family friends.[4] Stone's father was also influential in obtaining jobs for his son including work on a financial exchange in France, where Stone often spent his summer vacation with his maternal grandparents, a job that proved inspirational to Stone for his movie Wall Street. Stone eventually graduated from The Hill School in 1964.

Stone was then admitted into Yale University, but left after one year.[5] Stone had become inspired by Joseph Conrad's novel Lord Jim as well as by Zorba the Greek and George Harrison's music to teach English at the Free Pacific Institute in South Vietnam. Stone taught in Vietnam for six months after which he worked as a wiper on a United States Merchant Marine ship, travelling to Oregon and Mexico, before returning to Yale, where he dropped out a second time (in part due to working on his 1,400 page autobiographical novel A Child's Night Dream).[4] While at Yale, Stone and friend Lloyd Kaufman worked on an early Troma Entertainment comedy The Battle of Love's Return (1971). Both also acted in the movie, Stone in a cameo role.[6] Stone served with the U.S. Army in the Vietnam war from April 1967 to November 1968. He specifically requested combat duty as an infantryman and was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division. He saw action in the New Years Day Battle of 1968 and his personal awards include the Bronze Star with Valor device, and the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster.[4] With support from the GI Bill, Stone eventually graduated from film school at New York University (where he was mentored by director Martin Scorsese) in 1971. Stone was the recipient of the Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award at the 2007 Austin Film Festival.

Mainstream success

He has made three films about VietnamPlatoon (1986), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), and Heaven & Earth (1993). He has called these films a trilogy, though they each deal with different aspects of the war. Platoon is a semi-autobiographical film about Stone's experience in combat. Born on the Fourth of July is based on the autobiography of Ron Kovic. Heaven & Earth is derived from the memoir When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, the true story of Le Ly Hayslip, a Vietnamese girl whose life is drastically affected by the war. During this same period, Stone directed Wall Street (1987), for which Michael Douglas received the Academy Award for Best Actor; Talk Radio (1988), and The Doors (1991), starring Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison. Stone has won three Academy Awards. His first Oscar was for Best Adapted Screenplay for Midnight Express (1978). He won Academy Awards for Directing Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July.

For Year of the Dragon (1985) he received a Razzie nomination in the category 'Worst Screenplay'. Other films whose screenplays he participated in are Conan the Barbarian (1982), Scarface (1983), 8 Million Ways to Die (1986) and Evita (1996). In addition, he has written or taken part in the writing of every film he has directed, except for U Turn (1997). The very first film that he directed professionally was the obscure horror picture Seizure (1974).

I make my films like you're going to die if you miss the next minute. You better not go get popcorn.

–Oliver Stone[7]

Since the late 1990s

Stone directed U Turn (1997), and Any Given Sunday (1999), a film about power struggles within and surrounding an American football team. In 2000, Stone, along with Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas appeared in Money Never Sleeps. The film is a direct-to-DVD documentary about making Wall Street, which Stone directed and Sheen and Douglas starred in.[8] Stone also directed Alexander (2004), a biopic about Alexander the Great.

After Alexander, Stone went on to direct World Trade Center, which centered on two Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) cops during the September 11, 2001 attacks. The main undercurrent of the film is hope through times of trial. As of December 19, 2006, the worldwide box office for World Trade Center was $161,735,806. He is slated to direct Pinkville, a Vietnam war drama about the infamous killings set to star Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum. The film's plot was to focus on the investigation into the 1968 My Lai Massacre of Vietnamese civilians. It would have been Stone's fourth Vietnam film, after Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Heaven & Earth. The film was to have been made for the newly reformed United Artists.[9] However, United Artists halted its December 2007 production start because of the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. Stone's latest film is a biopic about George W. Bush, named W. Stone indicated portraying the controversial President's childhood, relationship with his father, struggles with alcoholism, rediscovery of his Christian faith, his political career and presidency up through the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The film is based on a screenplay by Stone and Stanley Weiser, who had co-written Wall Street (1987). Josh Brolin was cast in the role of Bush,[10] James Cromwell as Bush Sr. [11] and Elizabeth Banks as his wife. Filming began on May 12, 2008 in Shreveport, Louisiana and wrapped in June.[12] W. was released on October 17, 2008. He recently promoted his new film South of the Border at the Venice Film Festival; a documentary about Hugo Chavez.


Stone's films often have been criticized for promoting conspiracy theories and alleged historical inaccuracies. JFK, for instance, centers on a heroic character who comes to believe that many high-level government officials having a hand in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1991, he showed the film to Congress on Capitol Hill, which helped lead to passage of the Assassination Materials Disclosure Act[13] of 1992. The Assassination Records Review Board (created by Congress to end the secrecy surrounding Kennedy's assassination) discussed the film, including Stone's observation at the end of the film, about the dangers inherent in government secrecy.[14] Stone published an annotated version of the screenplay, in which he cites references for his claims, shortly after the film's release.

Stone's screenplay Midnight Express was criticized for portraying the Turkish people in an overly negative light. The original author, Billy Hayes, around whom the film is set, has spoken out against the film, protesting that he had many Turkish friends while in jail. [15]

Stone's film The Doors received criticism from Ray Manzarek (keyboardist–bass player) during a question and answer session at Indiana University East (in Richmond, Indiana) in 1997. During the discussion Manzarek stated that he sat down with Stone about The Doors and Jim Morrison for over 12 hours. Patricia Kennealy Morrison - a well known rock critic and author - was a consultant on the movie, in which she also has a cameo appearance, but she writes in her memoir Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison (Dutton, 1992) that Stone ignored everything she told him and proceeded with his own version of events. From the moment the movie was released, she blasted it as untruthful and inaccurate.[16] Surviving members of the band: John Densmore, and Robby Krieger also cooperated with the filming of 'Doors' but distanced themselves from the work before the film's release.

Natural Born Killers is filmed and edited in a frenzied style where animation, grainy black-and-white 8 mm film, color 35 mm film, and VHS are intercut and juxtaposed in a psychedelic montage of images showing not only the story's action, but also conveying the thoughts and feelings of the characters. The film was criticized by some for its apparent glorification of violence. Quentin Tarantino was credited with "Story By" on the final film. In 1997, a book about the making of the film, Killer Instinct was written by Jane Hamsher and published by Broadway Books.

Also in 1997, Stone was one of 34 celebrities to sign an open letter to then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, published as a newspaper advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, which protested the treatment of Scientologists in Germany and compared it to the Nazis' oppression of Jews in the 1930s.[17] Other signatories included Dustin Hoffman and Goldie Hawn.[17]

In 2003, Stone travelled to Cuba where he interviewed Fidel Castro for three days. The result was the documentary Comandante where Stone and Castro talk about politics, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Fidel's personal beliefs, the Cuban Revolution, important events from the past 50 years and Castro's views on the future of the revolution. The film was scheduled to air in May 2003 on HBO but was put on hold after an incident where hijackers threatened to kill passengers on a Cuban ferry if they were not taken to the United States. It has not been released in the United States and is only available on imported DVDs from Britain. Stone returned to Cuba and shot Looking for Fidel, a documentary dealing with conditions on the island and the relationship between Cuba and the United States. That film was aired on HBO in early 2004.

Drug use

Stone loosely based Scarface on his own addiction to cocaine which he had to kick while writing the screenplay.[18] On the DVD of Natural Born Killers: The Director's Cut, one of the producers, Jane Hamsher, recounts stories of taking psilocybin mushrooms with Stone and some of the cast and crew and almost getting pulled over by a police officer—a situation which Stone later wrote into the film. In 1999, Stone was arrested and pleaded guilty to "alcohol and drug charges." He was ordered into a rehabilitation program. He was arrested again on the night of May 27, 2005 in Los Angeles for possession of 2 pounds of marijuana.[19]

Attempted meeting with FARC

In a January 2008 interview with The Observer, Stone expressed disgust for what he claims to be the ongoing U.S.-supported paramilitary violence in Colombia's "war on drugs." He accompanied Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's president and third party negotiator with the Colombian guerilla group known as Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, in the release of three hostages held for over six years, another episode in the humanitarian exchange affair.

The visit was part of his research for an upcoming film he will be directing which addresses the crisis.[20] The FARC, designated a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, was described in a 2005 United Nations report as responsible for "grave" human rights violations, including "murders of protected persons, torture and hostage-taking¨ against ¨women, returnees, boys and girls, and ethnic groups."[21] During The Observer interview, Stone did not condemn the FARC outright; "I do think that by the standards of Western civilization they go too far; they kidnap innocent people. On the other hand, they're fighting a desperate battle against highly financed, American-supported forces who have been terrorizing the countryside for years and kill most of the people. FARC is fighting back as best it can and grabbing hostages is the fashion in which they can finance themselves and try to achieve their goals, which are difficult. They're a peasant army; I see them as a Zapata-like army. I think they are heroic to fight for what they believe in and die for it, as was Castro in the hills of Cuba."[22]

Stone made the comments shortly after returning from a trip to Colombia, where he was to have filmed footage of the expected release of three FARC hostages, including a young child named Emanuel. Despite the breakup of the international commission appointed to oversee the release, FARC ultimately released two of the hostages despite their refusal to identify the hostages' exact location. It was subsequently revealed that the FARC could not have released the child because they no longer held him. Instead the child had been placed in foster care and subsequently adopted by the Colombian welfare system (the ICBF) because of signs of child abuse. The purported hostage release had been a FARC ruse all along.[23] Nevertheless, Stone blamed the Colombian government and the United States for the fiasco.[22]

Other work

In 1993, Stone produced a mini series for ABC Television called Wild Palms. In a cameo, Stone appears on a television in the show discussing how the theories in his film JFK had been proven correct (the series took place in a hypothetical future, 2007). Wild Palms has developed a moderate cult following in the years since it aired, and has recently been released on DVD. That same year, he also spoofed himself in the comedy hit Dave, espousing a conspiracy theory about the President's replacement by a near-identical double. In 1997, Stone published A Child's Night Dream, a largely autobiographical novel first written in 1966-1967. After several unsuccessful attempts to get the work published, he "threw several sections of the manuscript into the East River one cold night, and, as if surgically removing the memory of the book from my mind, volunteered for Vietnam in 1967."[4] Eventually, he dug out the remaining pages, rewrote the manuscript, and published it.

In 2003, Stone made two documentary films: Persona Non Grata, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Comandante, about Cuban President Fidel Castro. In 2004, he made a second documentary on Castro, titled Looking for Fidel. (See also Controversy, above.) Stone is directing a short film about the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where the games were held. He was recently granted permission by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to make a documentary about him. Stone had been previously refused permission by the Iranian government when the President's media advisor, Mehdi Kalhor, denounced Stone[24][25] as being part of the "Great Satan" of American culture, despite his opposition to the Bush administration. However, Ahmadinejad approved permission a month later, saying he had "no objections" provided the documentary was based on accurate facts. Stone is due to visit Tehran to negotiate the production of the film with Iranian officials, possibly the president himself.

In 2008, Stone was named the Artistic Director of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts Asia.

Stone has recently completed a documentary about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the rise of progressive, leftist governments in Latin America. Stone, who is a supporter of Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, hopes the film will get the Western world to rethink the Venezuelan president and socialist policies. Titled South Of The Border, the documentary premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 2009.[26]

Future projects

The future of Pinkville remains currently unknown, though Stone is expected to return to the project, following the completion of W. In 2007, Stone was reported to have turned down an invitation to direct a sequel to Wall Street, but in April 2009, it was confirmed that he would in fact direct the Wall Street sequel. Michael Douglas will reprise his oscar-winning role as Gordon Gekko, while original star Charlie Sheen is rumored to make a cameo. Shia LaBeouf has also joined the cast. The Wall Street sequel is set for release in 2010.

In early January 2010, it emerged that Stone is preparing a documentary series for American television entitled Oliver Stone's Secret History of America, which will provide an unconventional account of some of the darkest parts of twentieth century history. Oliver hopes to put into context some of the most abhorrent figures of the last hundred years such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong.[27]


As director

Other work

See also


  • Hamburg, Eric. Nixon: An Oliver Stone Film. Hyperion Books. ISBN 0786881577
  • Riordan, James. Stone: The Biography. (1996)
  • Stone, Oliver. JFK: The Book of the Film. Applause Books. ISBN 1557831270
  • Salewicz, Chris. Oliver Stone: the making of his movies. Orion. ISBN 0 75281 820 1


  1. ^ James Riordan (September 1996). Stone: A Biography of Oliver Stone. New York: Aurum Press. p. 377. ISBN 1854104446. 
  2. ^ Oliver Stone Biography (1946-)
  3. ^ The religion of director Oliver Stone
  4. ^ a b c d Oliver Stone biography on Retrieved August 4, 2009.
  5. ^ Yale Daily News - Famous Failures
  6. ^ M.J. Simpson Interview with Lloyd Kaufman.
  7. ^ Oliver Stone: Natural Born Director
  8. ^ "Money Never Sleeps". IMDb. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  9. ^ Stone headed to 'Pinkville' along with UA
  10. ^ Variety
  11. ^ Fleming, Michael (March 26, 2008). "Oliver Stone casts parents of W". Variety. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  12. ^ Kent, Alexandyr (March 26, 2008). "Oliver Stone's W. to film in Shreveport". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  13. ^ Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress)
  14. ^ Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board
  15. ^
  16. ^ "She Slams 'Doors' on Portrayal," New York Post, (March 1991)
  17. ^ a b Drozdiak, William (1997-01-14). U.S. Celebrities Defend Scientology in Germany, The Washington Post, p. A11
  18. ^ "The Total Film Interview - Oliver Stone". Total Film. 2003-11-01. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  19. ^ "Director Oliver Stone arrested". CNN News. 2005-05-28. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  20. ^ The Observer, ¨Stone: My Part in Baby Hostage Drama,¨ January 6, 2008.
  21. ^ Commission on Human Rights, "Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Colombia." February 28, 2005.
  22. ^ a b The Observer, "Stone: My Part in Baby Hostage Drama," January 6, 2008.
  23. ^ Associated Press, "DNA Shows Colombia Boy was Rebel Hostage," Joshua Goodman, January 4, 2008.
  24. ^ Robert Tait (2007-07-02). "Ahmadinejad turns down chance to star in Oliver Stone film". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  25. ^ "Iranian president: Stone part of ‘Great Satan’". The Associated Press. 2007-07-02. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  26. ^ Richard Corliss (2007-09-27). "South of the Border: Chávez and Stone's Love Story". Time.,8599,1920910,00.html?xid=rss-mostpopular. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  27. ^ Ed Pilkington "Hitler? A scapegoat. Stalin? I can empathize. Oliver Stone stirs up history", The Observer, 10 January 2010

External links

Online bibliographies



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

William Oliver Stone (born 15 September 1946), usually known as Oliver Stone, is a three-time Academy Award-winning American film director and screenwriter.



Wall Street (1987)

DVD Director’s Commentary (2000)

  • I wanted to explore the new Wall Street. When I was writing SCARFACE in Miami, there was so much coke around and so many lunatics, and I met so many kids from Wall Street who were millionaires. I thought older men were rich, but here were these kids, 25 or 28 or 35 years old, with millions of dollars playing the markets all over the world around the clock. My father would have been shocked by the new electronics that allowed it…. Dad was a stockbroker on Wall Street when there was more integrity and class.
  • WALL STREET was an extension of SCARFACE.
  • This is about getting into a corporation, screwing it up, putting in poison pills so your competitor can’t swallow it…. Very intricate game played in the 1980’s…. Mike Milken did it with junks bonds, Drexel Burnham.
  • I’m ambivalent. I like Gekko, which is partly why Michael Douglas did so well…. Gekko is despicable but kinda fun too.
  • Money never sleeps.
  • All these Wall Street lawyers are running the system according to Buckminster Fuller. After World War II they took most of the money out of the United States, they drained the blood out of the United States and put it abroad, overseas capital…. Fuller calls it Lawyer Capitalism, the lawyers run the show. Tax laws are the key. In the postwar years, tax law allowed US capital to go abroad…. It all fled the country and stayed abroad and America changed tremendously…. We became a world power, yet a rapacious one, with capitalists really doing a major theft of our money…. Nixon took us off the Gold Standard in 1972 because America went bankrupt…. All these recessions in the 70’s, 80’s…. My father got wiped out on Wall Street.
  • It’s funny to read articles about Gordon Gekko as if he exists…. If you really listen to Gekko’s speech, half of it makes sense…. But it’s the excess, losing moderation, that destroys all…. There is nothing inherently wrong with greed as a human motivator, greed motivating evolution…. But there’s a huge disconnect between the classes. It is very demoralizing to work for someone who makes a billion dollars a year while you make just barely enough to make it.
  • Greed is good. Taken from Ivan Boesky’s speech saying ‘Greed is right.’… Gekko says he wrecks it ‘because it is wreckable.’ There is an impulse in Gekko to take, to rape…. Kirk Kerkorian destroyed MGM and UA…. Buy both companies and destroy both. And that was the end of the movie business. UA and MGM were two great film companies. Suddenly they were one lousy company. Kerkorian did it for the money, like Gekko. He didn’t care about film. Never. He sold it off in pieces. He cannibalized it. Just like Gekko. These guys do what suits their short-term.
  • Zero sum game implies winners and losers. If somebody wins, somebody gotta lose…. I don’t agree with that. Because all boats can rise on a rising sea. Good films help other good films. Different psychology. If you’re overly competitive, you say it is exclusionary, a zero sum game: I must win so he must lose. That’s not true. We can all win without forcing the other guy to lose.
  • Balzac was right…. There is tremendous jealousy about money.
  • I leave Bud Fox in the canyons of Wall Street, just another ant, one of millions of ants…. We’re all absorbed in this system of capitalism…. You join the collective unconscious.

External links

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Simple English

William Oliver Stone (born September 15, 1946) is an American filmmaker.

Movies he directed

  • Looking for Fidel (2004)
  • Alexander (2004)
  • Comandante (2003)
  • Any Given Sunday (1999)
  • U-Turn (1997)
  • Nixon (1995)
  • Natural Born Killers (1994)
  • Heaven & Earth (1993)
  • JFK (1991)
  • The Doors (1991)
  • Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
  • Talk Radio (1988)
  • Wall Street (1987)
  • Platoon (1986)
  • Salvador (1986)
  • The Hand (1981)
  • Mad Man of Martinique (short) (1979)
  • Seizure(aka Queen of Evil) (1974)

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