Oliver Stone

June 6, 2014

Oliver StoneName: William Oliver Stone

Essential DVDs: Salvador (1986); Platoon (1986); Wall Street (1987); Born On The Fourth Of July (1989); JFK (1991); Natural Born Killers (1994); Nixon (1995)

Oscars: Best Director (Born On The Fourth Of July, 1990); Best Director, Best Picture (Platoon, 1987); Best Adapted Screenplay (Midnight Express, 1978)

In His Own Words: “I consider my films first and foremost to be dramas about individuals in personal struggles and I consider myself to be a dramatist before I am a political filmmaker. I’m interested in alternative points of view. I also like anarchy in films.”

Where do you start with a problem like Oliver? He is Hollywood’s coruscating conscience, part madman, part genius, entirely troublemaker. He just can’t help himself. JFK had critics fired and death threats landing across his desk, Natural Born Killers appalled and aggravated the liberals and hard-liners alike, and with Alexander he sprawled in every direction picking up hoots of derision for his trouble. Inconsistent he maybe, but Stone continues to scratch away at boundaries while the likes of Scorsese or Coppola, are either clutching for the mainstream or dozing on their veranda somewhere in the Napa Valley. If he’s going to falter, he’s going to do it in the full glare of the limelight. Stone is so public a persona, his stars tend to feel like second billing.

His vision, sharpened by the frenetic lash of his edits and the full arsenal of camera tricks he uses to powerhouse his intrepid ideas, was born from his three tours of duty in Vietnam. It fed directly into his art, the modern, curdled history of America becoming the backbone of his muse. He is driven by a furious passion to deliver the truth, a fury that can be felt in every frame of every film. “People are suckers for the truth,” harries Donald Sutherland’s deep-throated X in JFK. “And the truth is on your side, Bubba.”

Ultimately, and beautifully, he refuses to be confined by ideology. He is both politico and bohemian (hell, why else make a film about The Doors?). As a filmmaker it is a unique voice, hectoring and heartfelt, and when they come to write his epitaph it should be quite simple: “Never bland.”