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|Also Known As:||Minh Duc, William Oliver Stone||Died:|
|Born:||September 15, 1946||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||New York City, New York, USA||Profession:||director, producer, screenwriter, cab driver, teacher (Free Pacific Institute, Vietnam)|
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
ial, almost Shakespearean study of the 37th President of the United States with "Nixon" (1995). Clocking in at over three hours, and filled with his now-typical visual gimmicks ¿ documentary-like flashbacks, black-and-white footage, varying film stock, sharp angles and rapid back-and-forth editing ¿ "Nixon" attempted to capture the emotional essence of a man who never revealed himself in public, despite having left his claw marks on American history. Though Stone succeeded in portraying Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins) as a tragic character rather than a one-dimensional villain, he ultimately failed in truly humanizing him ¿ perhaps a measure of the man himself. Nonetheless, some critics hailed "Nixon" as a masterpiece, while most reviewers agreed that Stone elicited strong performances from the top-shelf ensemble cast, which included an Oscar-nominated Joan Allen as Pat Nixon, James Woods as H.R. Haldeman, and Paul Sorvino as Henry Kissinger. After taking a break from directing to write a draft of "Evita" (1996), Stone tackled film noir for his next feature, "U-Turn" (1997), a crime thriller about a two-bit criminal (Sean Penn) whose car breaks down in a desolate Arizona town and quickly becomes...
ial, almost Shakespearean study of the 37th President of the United States with "Nixon" (1995). Clocking in at over three hours, and filled with his now-typical visual gimmicks ¿ documentary-like flashbacks, black-and-white footage, varying film stock, sharp angles and rapid back-and-forth editing ¿ "Nixon" attempted to capture the emotional essence of a man who never revealed himself in public, despite having left his claw marks on American history. Though Stone succeeded in portraying Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins) as a tragic character rather than a one-dimensional villain, he ultimately failed in truly humanizing him ¿ perhaps a measure of the man himself. Nonetheless, some critics hailed "Nixon" as a masterpiece, while most reviewers agreed that Stone elicited strong performances from the top-shelf ensemble cast, which included an Oscar-nominated Joan Allen as Pat Nixon, James Woods as H.R. Haldeman, and Paul Sorvino as Henry Kissinger. After taking a break from directing to write a draft of "Evita" (1996), Stone tackled film noir for his next feature, "U-Turn" (1997), a crime thriller about a two-bit criminal (Sean Penn) whose car breaks down in a desolate Arizona town and quickly becomes embroiled with a seductive femme-fatale (Jennifer Lopez), only to discover that her businessman husband (Nick Nolte) wants her dead. Despite a strong cast delivering good performances, "U-Turn" was largely disregarded by fans and critics alike.
In June 1999, Stone was arrested after being pulled over for driving too slow and was charged with DUI and possession of a controlled substance, which was later revealed to be hashish. Stone was convicted on a diverted felony and compelled to attend counseling once a week. Meanwhile, he delivered his next film, "Any Given Sunday" (1999), a dizzying look at the modern state of professional football, which had become dominated by big money and the star-making potential of television over the concerns of personal ethics and the health of the players. Stone focused on the fictional Miami Sharks, a former championship team whose ragged coach (Al Pacino) routinely butts heads with the team's new owner (Cameron Diaz) and new hot-shot quarterback (Jamie Foxx). Though a solid box office performer, "Any Given Sunday" failed to impress the majority of critics, many of whom were not impressed with Stone's unnecessary use of spiraling camera techniques designed to bring audiences closer to the on-the-field action. If anything, the looping camera movies served only to underscore the film's artifice.
Turning to documentaries, Stone traveled to Cuba in 2002 and spent three days in rare interviews with Fidel Castro, who discussed on camera his thoughts and feelings on a multitude of topics, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the continuing U.S. embargo on Cuba, Che Guevera, and movies. The result was "Comandante" (2003), a 93-minute documentary highlighting Stone's conversations with Castro. After showing at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, HBO purchased the rights to air the film. But the film was shelved after an incident involving a group of armed men attempting to hijack a Cuban ferry bound for the United States that ended in their deaths. Stone returned the following year to film footage for what became "Looking For Fidel" (HBO, 2004), a more politically-balanced look that gave voice to Castro's political enemies, while highlighting the leader's crackdown on dissidents and the botched hijacking of the Cuban ferry. Then after five years without a theatrical offering, Stone returned to the big screen with his first epic, "Alexander" (2004), an acid-induced chronicle of Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great (Colin Farrell). Lavish in style, confusing in tone and possessing an overwrought and overlong story, "Alexander" floundered mightily at the box office, taking in less than $35 million. Stone took it from all sides, countering criticism and often vicious scorn with a sharp anger not usually displayed from the thoughtful director. Never before had Stone failed so miserably.
But Stone managed to bounce back ¿ critically at least ¿ with his next project. The sober and heart-wrenching take on the September 11th terrorist attacks, "World Trade Center" (2006) starred Nicolas Cage as Port Authority sergeant John McLoughlin who, along with Officer Will Jimeno (Michael Peña), survived for 24 hours underneath the rubble after the towers collapsed. A true story of courage and survival amidst an act of pure evil, "World Trade Center" found Stone unlikely allies with the conservative scourges who typically blasted his movies ¿ notably "JFK" and "Born on the Fourth of July" ¿ because of the films' conspiratorial bent and political stance. Stone was careful not to delve into politics with "World Trade Center;" not out of self-censorship, but because he wanted to tell the personal stories of the two Port Authority officers who survived a devastating day with hope intact. Not one to stay away from politically-charged films for very long, Stone announced his intention to film "W" (2009), a look into the life and presidency of George W. Bush (Josh Brolin). Stone's goal was to create "a fair, true portrait of the man," while trying to learn how he went from "an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world." Right off the bat, Stone triggered moral outrage among Bush supporters and drooling glee from his detractors. Ever the showman, Stone promised surprises for both and a final product before the election in November 2008.ylish and possessing a stream-of-consciousness soundtrack, "The Doors" helped initiate a new generation into the band's music, while resurrecting hero-worship for a man whose highly-literate lyrics revealed a soul beset by demons and ravaged by excess. Stone turned a third time to Vietnam with "Heaven and Earth" (1993). Based on two autobiographical books by Le Ly Hayslip, the film told the story of how the war impacted the life of a young Vietnamese woman (Hiep Thi Le) who struggles to survive, but falls in love with an American soldier (Tommy Lee Jones). Some critics saw the film as an atonement for Stone's narrow American male point-of-view expressed in the first two installments of his Vietnam trilogy. Overall, however, "Heaven and Earth" was greeted by mixed reviews and lukewarm box office.
Actively courting controversy once again, Stone directed "Natural Born Killers" (1994), a project that harkened back to his early horror flicks. From the original screenplay by writer-director Quentin Tarantino, "Natural Born Killers" was an overwhelming and hallucinatory satire on the nature of violence, as portrayed by an increasingly participatory media. Mickey and Mallory (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis respectively), two lovers who travel across the country on a killing spree, suddenly find themselves media darlings while they are hunted down by a corrupt federal agent (Tom Sizemore) and sought for an interview by a tabloid journalist (Robert Downey, Jr.). Taking its inspiration from music videos, commercials and other media, "Natural Born Killers" assaulted the senses with an incessant soundtrack, rapid-fire montages, changing film stocks, animated sequences and sharply observed television parodies. Both audiences and reviewers alike were sharply divided over the film ¿ no surprise at this point when it came to Stone films ¿ either loving it or hating it. Making matters worse was the public flap between Stone and Tarantino; the latter of whom hated the changes the director made to his script. Though always favoring vigorous debate and variety of opinion, Stone was upset Tarantino publicly criticized the film, which he felt jeopardized its performance at the box office. Stone also later revealed that of all the biting criticism over the years, he was only wounded by what was said about "Natural Born Killers."
Once again turning his attention to politics and history, Stone delivered a massive, controvers
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CAST: (feature film)
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Stone was awarded France's Order of Arts and Letters (1992).
Stone was presented with the "Director of the Decade" Award by the Chicago International Film Festival (1992).
In June 1999, Stone was arrested for DWI. When the police stopped him, they reportedly also discovered hashish in the car.
"In 1992, three years after Stone optioned (Le Ly) Hayslip's first book, and after they had spent weeks visiting her mother's house in Ky La, she took Stone to her master, a Buddhist monk in California, who put the lapsed Catholic through a soul cleansing ritual called Quy Y and gave him a Buddhist name, Minh Duc, which, a shock to his foes, means 'virtue and brilliance'.---From "The Road to 'Heaven and Earth'" by Jack Mathews, Los Angeles Times Calendar, December 23, 1993.
Describing his then upcoming project, a $30 million satire entitled "Natural Born Killers", Oliver Stone made the following comparisons:
"It's in the vein of 'Scarface'... because of its large-scale portrait of criminality. It deals with the death penalty and the prison system in passing. It's [also] a slumming road picture in the vein of 'Salvador'. It's violence in the media and the American way of death. It's Peckinpah meets Kubrick, not that I'm that good, but if I was, it would be somewhere in that zone."
---"Stone Giving Berth to Tarantino 'Killers'", Daily Variety, March 19, 1993.
Graham Fuller: You pack it all in there in that closing montage: the Menendez trial, Tonya, Waco, Lorena Bobbitt, O.J. Simpson.
Oliver Stone: Tragedy has become the new soap opera, and it hasn't enhanced our ability to empathize at all. Instead, it's made us callous. The concept of television as gladiator game, as spectacle, has densensitized the audience and made our society 'the Great Yawn,' as Octavio Paz called it. Unsatiated, insensitive to pain, needing more and more, because nothing shocks anymore... "
---From "Oliver Stone's Killer Instinct", an Interview piece by Graham Fuller
"I wanted to have fun," [Stone] said. "And I really wanted to do a combination of a road movie, like "Bonnie and Clyde", and "Easy Rider", and a prison film, like "The Great Escape" and "Papillon".
"It's such an outrageous story," he said. "And in the time between optioning the film and making it, tremendous things have happened on America's landscape." Mr. Stone insisted that some of his other films, such as "Scarface", "J.F.K." and "Platoon", were far more violent than "Natural Born Killers". Those earlier films, he said, were realistic, while his current one is not.
"There's not a gruesome scene in the film," he said, making a point that's highly debatable.
"It's a love-it-or-hate-it movie," he said.
No one is likely to argue with that.
---From "How a Movie Satire Turned Into Reality" by Bernard Weinraub in The New York Times, August 16, 1994.
"I would imagine that if Oliver Stone showed his movie to a thousand people and a thousand people didn't exactly get the point that he was trying to make, he would think he failed. To me the best thing about him is his energy. But his biggest problem is that his obviousness cancels out his energy and his energy pumps up his obviousness. He's Stanley Kramer with style."---Quentin Tarantino's take on Stone, from Premiere, November 1994.
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