Platoon won him Oscars for best picture and director. He would receive another Academy Award for directing 1989’s Fourth of July. (He has received 11 nominations in all.) Those films, along with Wall Street (1987) and JFK (1991), put Oliver Stone firmly in the pantheon of America’s greatest living directors.
And although he has ruffled some colleagues — possibly including longtime cinematographer Robert Richardson, with whom he “had a divorce, and like all divorces, it was painful” — the director has got his feet firmly planted on the ground when it comes to playing the Hollywood game. And as The Hollywood Reporter's executive editor, features, Stephen Galloway discovers in this week's THR cover story, Stone still knows how to bring a movie in on time and even under budget, as he did Universal’s $40 million drug drama Savages.
The film — about two pot growers whose mutual girlfriend is kidnapped by a Mexican cartel — stars Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek and John Travolta. It’s getting the type of buzz that leads insiders to believe Stone is back at his best.
“This movie reminds us that Oliver, when he’s working in his milieu, is one of the great directors of his generation,” says Universal Pictures co-chairman Donna Langley, whose studio is so confident in the film that it moved its release from Sept. 28 to July 6. “He’s been amazing to work with, exceptionally collaborative and sharp and intelligent, with a healthy dose of neurotic insecurity.”
Some of the other details from THR’s Stone cover story:
STONE ISN'T FAZED BY HIS OLDEST SON'S RECENT CONVERSION TO ISLAM
His oldest child, Sean, 27, a documentary filmmaker (one of two sons with his second wife), recently converted to Islam and changed his name to Ali. Stone isn’t fazed. “He decided for himself, and he is doing it for philosophical purposes,” he shrugs. “At that age, I did a lot crazier things.
STONE ON 'PLATOON' STAR CHARLIE SHEEN: 'FAME DID IT TO HIM, NOT ME'
Then there’s his protege Charlie Sheen’s outlandish behavior. “Oh boy, you’re going to get me in trouble,” groans Stone, jokingly burying his face in his hands and noting the two are not close; indeed, the only time they’ve gotten together in years was at a recent THR photo shoot. “Fame did it to him, not me. He got wild. Listen, he’s one of the richest actors in the world. He wanted money. He loved money. Maybe he was more like the Wall Street boy than we knew.
WORKING WITH RICHARD DREYFUSS ON 'W' WAS STONE'S 'SINGLE WORST EXPERIENCE'
He’s less amused by Richard Dreyfuss, who played Dick Cheney in Stone’s 2008 biopic W and lambasted his director as a “fascist.” “That was probably the single worst experience I’ve ever had with an actor in my life,” the helmer shoots back, saying Dreyfuss couldn’t remember his lines. “I walked him outside, and I read him the Riot Act. I said, ‘You’re going to read these f—ing cue cards, and if you don’t read them, this scene is over.’ So, yeah, I was a fascist.”
STONE CLARIFIES CONTROVERSIAL CLAIMS ABOUT JEWISH 'DOMINATION' OF THE MEDIA
Beyond Dreyfuss, the filmmaker inflamed much of Hollywood in 2010 when he complained of Jewish “domination” of the media and u.S. foreign policy. “I apologized for it,” he notes, adding he is half-Jewish on his father’s side. “I meant that the state of Israel and its policy have a very undue influence on American media.”
OBAMA 'HASN'T KEPT' PROMISES, ROMNEY IS AN 'IDIOT'
“I like Ron Paul’s magnetism, his decency, his honor and his foreign policy,” he argues. “Obama’s doing his best. He’s got his problems, and I think he made certain promises he hasn’t kept.” He remains undecided about whether to vote for the president because “Obama has carried on the Bush war on terror and has not addressed all the things he promised he would do to curtail the hype and fear that per- vade this country.” Still, he says, “It’s hard for me to vote Republican.” As for Mitt Romney, “I’m not going to vote for that idiot.”
DRUG USE: 'I BELIEVE IN LSD, MESCALINE, MUSHROOMS, AYAHUASCA ... ECSTASY IS GREAT TOO.'
“I’m like Willie Nelson,” he says, eyes twinkling. “I believe the grass is God’s gift. California makes the best in the world now. When I was a kid, it was Vietnamese, it was Thai, Jamaican for a while. All my life I’ve been doing it, off and on. I can stop marijuana. I can [go without it] for weeks and weeks. I’m not addicted, but I enjoy it. I also enjoy alcohol.”As for heavy drugs: “Cocaine, I stay away from. But I believe in LSD, mescaline, mushrooms, ayahuasca. You ever heard of ayahuasca? It’s a very strong juice that comes from the rubber trees. Ecstasy is great, too.”
WHEN 'BATTLESHIP' BOMBED, STONE TOLD 'SAVAGES' STAR TAYLOR KITSCH: 'YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A LONG CAREER'
"I’d worked with Navy SEALs on Battleship,” Kitsch recalls, adding he suggested that his character, a vet, be covered with scars. “Other directors would have been, ‘No, I want you to look good!’ ” he says. To his surprise, Stone agreed without hesitation.While Kitsch notes his director has “zero filter” in giving his opinion, he was thrilled when Stone e-mailed him after the Battleship fiasco,writing: “With any job there is always going to be self-doubt that creeps in, but know that you are going to have a long career.”
STONE IS 'NOT A PROZAC PERSON ANYMORE'
Even in the decades since, he has had bouts of depression, he says. “I’ve taken medication, but it doesn’t work for me. I’m not a Prozac person anymore; I’ve already taken too much of that. I feel you have to confront it on a spiritual basis.”