Oliver Stone Biography

Screenwriter, Director(1946–)
Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director Oliver Stone is best known for the hit films Platoon, Scarface, Born on the Fourth of July and Natural Born Killers.

Synopsis

Oliver Stone was born on September 15, 1946, in New York City. After serving in the Vietnam War, he went to New York University to study film under Martin Scorsese. In 1974, Stone directed his first feature film, Seizure. His 1978 film, Midnight Express, won him an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. Over the course of his ongoing career, Stone has directed and written numerous award-winning films, including Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Natural Born Killers.

Early Life

William Oliver Stone was born in New York City on September 15, 1946. His father Louis Stone was a successful Wall Street stockbroker. His mother Jacqueline Goddet, a French student, met and married Louis while he was serving in the Army during World War II. Young Oliver showed an early creative flair, writing plays for his family, and he often visited his maternal grandparents in France. He attended Trinity School in Manhattan, and The Hill, a boarding school in Pennsylvania. 

In 1964, Stone briefly attended Yale University, but dropped out after one year. In 1965, he went to Vietnam to teach English at the Free Pacific Institute, a Catholic high school in Saigon. A year later he signed up with the U.S. Merchant Marine and traveled to Oregon and then Mexico, where he began to write his first novel A Child's Night Dream (which would be published in 1997).

Stone enlisted in the United States Army in 1967 and served in the 25th Infantry Division and later in the 1st Calvary Division during the Vietnam War. He was wounded twice and was awarded a Bronze Star for Gallantry and a Purple Heart.

After the war, Stone gravitated toward filmmaking and writing screenplays. He enrolled at New York University, where he studied under director Martin Scorsese. His first project, a short student film, was called Last Year in Vietnam (1971). After graduating in 1971, he took various jobs to support himself while writing, including a working as a cabdriver, messenger, sales representative, and production assistant. 

His next film project was a low-budget horror film, Seizure (1974), for which he also wrote the screenplay. 

Famed Filmmaker

Oliver Stone had his breakthrough in the film industry when he wrote the screenplay for Midnight Express (1978), directed by Alan Parker. The film was a hit and earned Stone his first Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as a shot at directing a major studio movie, The Hand (1981). Stone's directorial debut was not a success, but he went on to write screenplays for the popular films Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Scarface (1983).

Stone had a hugely successful year in 1986: He directed Salvador, a political drama starring James Woods (for which Woods and Stone were nominated for Oscars), and the Vietnam War drama Platoon, starring Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe. Platoon was a critically acclaimed hit with Berenger and Dafoe receiving Oscar nominations and Stone winning his first Oscar for directing and the film winning for Best Picture.

Following Platoon was a string of mostly successful, often controversial films: Wall Street (1987), starring Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas (in an Oscar-winning performance); Talk Radio (1988), based on a play and starring Eric Bogosian; and Born on the Fourth of July (1989), which starred Tom Cruise as a challenged war veteran and earned Stone a second Oscar for directing.

Adding to his now-legendary status in Hollywood, Stone went on to create several hit films, including The Doors (1991), which told the story of the legendary '60s rock band and starred Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison; JFK (1991), a dramatization of the attempts by Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner) to uncover a conspiracy behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which earned Stone Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay; the ultra-violent Natural Born Killers (1994), starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as serial killers; and Nixon (1995), a controversial study of U.S. President Richard Nixon starring Anthony Hopkins.

In 1999, Stone directed, produced and wrote the screenplay for the football-themed drama Any Given Sunday, featuring an ensemble cast: Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx and LL Cool J, among others. The filmmaker returned to his political roots for his firs documentary, Comandante (2003), which featured interviews with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, followed by Persona Non Grata (2003) about the Palestinian conflict. He continued making documentaries including Looking for Fidel (2004) and Castro in Winter (2012).

Returning to big-budget form, Stone went on to direct the 2004 epic Alexander, exploring the life of King Alexander the Great (Colin Farrell); the film also featured Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins and Christopher Plummer. Two years later, Stone worked on the disaster drama World Trade Center (2006), based on the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York. The movie was both a critical and commercial success.

In 2008, Stone once again returned to the political genre with W., a biopic of U.S. President George W. Bush (Josh Brolin). South of the Border, a documentary about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and issues affecting Latin America, was released the following year. In 2010, Stone reunited with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, a sequel to his earlier hit. Stone directed and co-wrote the screenplay for the film, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination.

Stone directed another controversial biopic Snowden (2016) about the story of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency subcontractor who exposed government surveillance activities to the world, making him a hero to some and a traitor to others. The film starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden.  

Personal Life

Stone has been married three times. He wed Najwa Sarkis on May 22, 1971; the couple divorced six years later, in 1977. He married second wife Elizabeth Burkit Cox on June 6, 1981, with whom he has two sons, Sean and Michael; the two parted ways in 1993. On January 16, 1996, Stone wed his third wife, Sun-jung Jung, with whom he has one daughter, Tara.

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