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Stone at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, 2009
|Born||William Oliver Stone
September 15, 1946 (age 65)
New York City, USA
|Occupation||Film director, producer, and screenwriter|
|Religion||Buddhism (originally Episcopalian)|
|Spouse||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, producer and screenwriter. Stone became well known in the late 1980s and the early 1990s for directing a series of films about the Vietnam War, for which he had previously participated as an infantry soldier. His work frequently focuses on contemporary political and cultural issues, often controversially. He has received three Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay for Midnight Express (1978), and Best Director for Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989). The British newspaper The Guardian described Stone as “one of the few committed men of the left working in mainstream American cinema.” Stone’s films often use many different cameras and film formats, including VHS, 8 mm film, and 70 mm film. He sometimes uses several formats in a single scene, as in JFK (1991) and Natural Born Killers (1994).
Stone was born in New York City, the son of Jacqueline (née Goddet) and Louis Stone, a stockbroker. He grew up affluently and lived in townhouses in Manhattan and Stamford, Connecticut. His father was Jewish and his mother was French-born and Catholic. As a religious compromise, Stone was raised in the Episcopal Church, but has since converted to Buddhism. Stone attended Trinity School before his parents sent him away to attend The Hill School, a college-preparatory school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. His mother was often absent and his father made a big impact on his life; father-son relationships were to feature heavily in Stone’s films. His parents divorced when he was 15, due to his father’s extramarital affairs with the wives of several family friends. 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 graduated from The Hill School in 1964.
Stone was then admitted into Yale University, but left after one year. 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). In September 1967, Stone enlisted in the United States Army, requesting combat duty in Vietnam. He fought with the 25th Infantry Division, then with the First Cavalry Division, earning a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster before his discharge in 1968 after 15 months. 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. Stone graduated from film school at New York University (where he was mentored by director Martin Scorsese) in 1971.
He has made three films about Vietnam: Platoon (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.
Stone directed U Turn (1997), and Any Given Sunday (1999), a film about power struggles within and surrounding an American football team. In 2010, Stone directed Michael Douglas in the Wall Street sequel Money Never Sleeps. 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. Stone was intended to direct his fourth Vietnam War film Pinkville, that depicts the investigation into the My Lai Massacre of Vietnamese civilians. The film was to have been made for the newly reformed United Artists. However, United Artists halted its December 2007 production start due to the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. After the strike, Stone went on to write, produce and direct the George W. Bush biopic, titled W.. He indicated that his film portrays the controversial President’s childhood, relationship with his father, struggles with alcoholism, rediscovery of his Christian faith, and his professional life up until the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The film is based on a screenplay by Stone and Stanley Weiser, with whom he had co-written Wall Street (1987). Josh Brolin was cast in the title role, James Cromwell as George Herbert Walker Bush, and Elizabeth Banks as Laura Welch Bush. Filming began on May 12, 2008 in Shreveport, Louisiana and wrapped up the following month. The film was released on October 17, 2008.
||This article’s Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article’s neutral point of view of the subject. Please integrate the section’s contents into the article as a whole, or rewrite the material. (August 2010)|
In 1991, Stone showed his film JFK to Congress on Capitol Hill, which helped lead to passage of the Assassination Materials Disclosure Act 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. 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 by some[who?] for its portrayal of Turkish people. 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.
Stone’s film Natural Born Killers (originally based on a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino), released in 1994, received controversial recognition for its portrayal of violence, along with the intended satire on the media. Before it was released, the MPAA gave the film a NC-17 rating; this caused Stone to cut four minutes of film footage in order to obtain an R rating (he eventually released the unrated version on VHS and DVD in 2001). Entertainment Weekly ranked Natural Born Killers at number 8 on their list of the 25 Most Controversial Movies Ever.
Stone’s other film The Doors, released in 1991, received criticism from former Doors member 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. The other surviving former 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.
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 against the treatment of Scientologists in Germany and compared it to the Nazis‘ oppression of Jews in the 1930s. Other signatories included Dustin Hoffman and Goldie Hawn.
In 2010, Stone defended his decision not to interview Hugo Chavez’s opponents during the filming of his documentary South of the Border. Stone indicated that people hear enough of those complaints already and that the movie is not intended to be a detailed examination of Chavez’s record. He praised Chavez as a leader of a movement for “social transformation” in Latin America and expressed his deep admiration for him.
Stone loosely based Scarface on his own addiction to cocaine which he had to kick while writing the screenplay. 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 an undisclosed illegal drug.
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 guerrilla group known as Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in the release of three hostages held for over six years, another episode in the humanitarian exchange affair.
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.”
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. In the days before the 2007 New Year’s Eve, the Venezuelan government had arranged for the release of high-profile hostages held in the Colombian jungle by the FARC guerrilla group. A high-level international team of observers was on hand, including former President Néstor Kirchner of Argentina, Brazil’s top presidential foreign policy advisor, and representatives from France, Switzerland, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, the Red Cross, and Oliver Stone. The mission failed, and Stone blamed the Colombian government and the United States for the fiasco. President Uribe said the FARC were lying the whole time, and they never had any intention of releasing the hostages because they did not have one of the three they had promised to deliver (a 3-year old boy who was born in captivity). President Chavez angrily accused Uribe of “dynamiting” the mission. He said the FARC was in fact ready to release the two hostages they held, but had to retreat from Colombian military operations. President Uribe maintained his military, under orders from him, had held to a cease-fire in order to allow the release.
In an interview with The Times newspaper on July 25, 2010, Stone claimed that America does not know “the full story” on Iran and complained about Jewish “domination” in parts of the US media and foreign policy. When Stone was asked why so much of an emphasis has been placed on the Holocaust, as opposed to the 25-plus million casualties the Soviet Union, for example, suffered in World War II, he stated that there was a powerful Jewish lobby within the US. The remarks were heavily criticised by Jewish groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, (where Yuri Eidelstein described his remarks as what “could be a sequel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,”) and the American Jewish Committee, as well as from Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister.
Stone a day later, stated: “In trying to make a broader historical point about the range of atrocities the Germans committed against many people, I made a clumsy association about the Holocaust, for which I am sorry and I regret. Jews obviously do not control media or any other industry. The fact that the Holocaust is still a very important, vivid and current matter today is, in fact, a great credit to the very hard work of a broad coalition of people committed to the remembrance of this atrocity – and it was an atrocity.”
On July 28, 2010, Stone issued a second apology to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which was accepted. “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman.
In 1993, Stone produced a miniseries 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.” 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 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 in Singapore.
In 2009, Stone 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, Chavez joined Stone for the premiere of the documentary at the Venice Film Festival in September 2009. The documentary features informal interviews by Stone with Chavez and six allied leftist presidents, from Bolivia’s Evo Morales to Cuba’s Raul Castro. Stone stated that he hopes the film will help people better understand a leader who is wrongly ridiculed “as a strongman, as a buffoon, as a clown.” In May 2010, Stone began a Latin American tour to promote the film, with screenings planned in Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. The documentary was also being released in some cities in the United States and Europe in the summer of 2010.
In early January 2010, it emerged that Stone was preparing a 10-part documentary series for Showtime titled The Untold History of the United States that he had been working on with American University historian Peter J. Kuznick since 2007. Stone will direct every one hour episode of the series, which intends to provide an unconventional account of some of the darkest parts of twentieth century history using little known documents and newly uncovered archival material . The miniseries will be accompanied by a companion book of the same name by Stone and Kuznick . Stone hopes to put into context some of the most controversial figures of the last hundred years, such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong.. Stone described the series as “the most ambitious thing I’ve ever done. Certainly in documentary form, and perhaps in fiction, feature form.”.The series is expected to premiere May 2012 .
Stone married three times, first to Najwa Sarkis on May 22, 1971. They divorced in 1977. He then married Elizabeth Stone on June 6, 1981. They had two sons, Sean Christopher (b. 1984) and Michael Jack (b. 1991). Sean appeared in some of his father’s films while a child. Oliver and Elizabeth divorced in 1993. Stone is currently married to Sun-jung Jung, and the couple have a teenage daughter, Tara. According to Newsmeat, Stone contributed money to Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election.
In 1999, Stone was arrested on alcohol and drug charges and, as part of a plea bargain, agreed to enter a rehabilitation program. On May 27, 2005, Stone was arrested for driving under the influence and possession of drugs. He was released the next day on a $15,000 bond. In August 2005 Stone pled no contest and was fined $100.
He stated recently that he would prefer Ron Paul for U.S. President: “I think in many ways the most interesting candidate – I’d even vote for him if he was running against Obama – is Ron Paul. Because he’s the only one of anybody who’s saying anything intelligent about the future of the world.”
|Year||Film||Academy Award Nominations||Academy Award Wins||Golden Globe Nominations||Golden Globe Wins||BAFTA Nominations||BAFTA Wins|
|1989||Born on the Fourth of July||8||2||5||4||2|
|1993||Heaven & Earth||1||1|
|1994||Natural Born Killers||1|
|1999||Any Given Sunday|
|2004||Looking for Fidel|
|2006||World Trade Center|
|2009||South of the Border|
|2010||Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps||1|