By Jason O'Brien
Oliver Stone was born on September 15, 1946 in New York City. He entered Trinity School in 1957, and the Hill School in 1960. He attended Yale and dropped out in 1965 after one year of education there. That same year, he moved to Vietnam to teach English in Cholon. The next year, he wrote an unpublished novel and lived in Mexico for a brief time. In 1967, he joined the Army. From 1967 to 1968, Stone would return to Vietnam this time as a soldier - he served fifteen months in the 25th Infantry Division. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his service in the war.
Upon returning from the war in 1968, Stone entered New York University where he studied film under Martin Scorsese, who would also go on to become one of Hollywood's most influential film directors. From there, he began his career as a screenwriter.
In 1973, he directed his very first film called Seizure, which was a horror film - it was released the next year. After moving to Hollywood in 1976, Stone was asked to adapt Midnight Express - for that effort, he won his first Academy Award - for Best Adapted Screenplay. In 1981, Stone directed a thriller called The Hand, which starred Michael Caine. In the early 1980's, Stone continued in Hollywood as a screenwriter, writing the scripts for films such as Conan the Barbarian, Scarface, Year of the Dragon, and 8 Million Ways to Die. It was in 1986 that Stone first found major success and emerged as a new fresh director with a unique vision and talent. He wrote and directed Salvador which starred James Woods - it was his first film which took a political stance as he explored the war in El Salvador. But it was Platoon, released the same year, which catapulted him into the spotlight.
He had originally written Platoon in 1976 to tell a story about the Vietnam War like no other that had been made before. With a cast that included Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, and Willem Dafoe, Stone's film was hailed as one of the greatest films ever made about the Vietnam War, and for that effort, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named the film Best Picture of the Year, and awarded Stone his first ever Best Director award. The film was also a success at the boxoffice, having grossed $250 million worldwide, making it the third highest grossing film of 1986. After Platoon, Stone went on to continue to make films which explored political issues and studied the recent history of our country.
His first film after Platoon was Wall Street, which won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Michael Douglas for his performance as Gordon Gekko. The story this time was with current issues - stock market scheming and insider trading. In 1988, Stone made what has to be considered his darkest and most unique film, Talk Radio, which was based on the stage play written by Eric Bogosian. The next year, Stone returned to the Vietnam War and made one of his most powerful films, Born on the Fourth of July, which brought him his second Best Director Academy Award. Tom Cruise portrayed Ron Kovic in the true story of his service in Vietnam, and his permanent handicap after being wounded - he came back to the United States and joined the anti-war movement. It was with this film that Stone began receiving the negative criticism from the establishment which has almost become a regular occurrence nowadays. He began to set a precendent as a historical filmmaker, specifically with the 1960's and recent political history. The first issues of an artist's responsibility to history and to drama began to surface.
In 1991, Stone made The Doors, which explored the story of one of the most popular and unique bands and specifically singers of the 60's and 70's - The Doors and Jim Morrison. However, that film was overshadowed that same year when Stone created a national controversy, unlike almost any other in the history of cinema, with his film JFK, a three hour stylistic journey into the nightmare of one of this country's most tragic events, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The film mixed history with conjecture, as Stone presented the facts and questions of the case, and tried his best to provide an alternative hypothesis to the Warren Commission hypothesis of a lone assassin. The film started a new national debate, and eventually led to the release of some of the locked up documents on the assassination. Stone began a new film style with JFK, mixing different film stocks, color and black and white, and various camera angles - a whole new way to tell his stories. Even though the Academy Awards shied away from the film because of its controversy, Stone did win the Golden Globe Award for Best Director for his efforts.
In 1993, Stone returned to the subject of Vietnam with Heaven and Earth, which would be his first film with a female lead - the film was also different in that it looked at the war from the other side. In 1994, Stone released another controversial film, Natural Born Killers, which raised complaints from people for its violence. The film was actually about the media and its glorification of violence and murder, and how we as a public elevate killers to the level of hero. In 1995, Stone again returned to political drama with Nixon, yet another controversial look back at our most recent political history.
For his next directorial effort in 1997, Stone returned to fiction, adapting the novel Stray Dogs into the film U-Turn, which was a satire on violence.
And in 1999, Stone trained his cameras on the world of professional football with his most successful film at the boxoffice since Platoon with Any Given Sunday.
Stone would take a break from feature filmmaking for the next five years, and delved instead into making a couple of documentaries, Persona Non Grata, an inside look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and Commandante, an in-depth portrait of Cuba's controversial leader Fidel Castro. In 2004, Stone would finally return to feature filmmaking with the realization of his long time dream project, Alexander, a film which was a personal passion for Stone, but disappointed American audiences. It detailed the story of the legendary Alexander the Great, a film which Stone would decide to revisit a couple of years later to present a much longer director's cut, as he feels that film never really got the chance to be appreciated like it should.
Two years later, in 2006, Stone would return to more recent history to present the more straight forward story of World Trade Center, dramatizing the amazing true story of two Port Authority policemen who were trapped in the rubble of the Twin Towers on the day of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the story of their amazing rescue.
In 2006, Stone also turned 60 ... still looking at a number of projects on his plate, deciding what the next phase in his filmmaking career will be.