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Chasing the Light by Oliver Stone

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  • Chasing the Light by Oliver Stone

    While Oliver Stone’s memoir is of course focussed on his work in the American cinema, there is quite a lot about his encounters with British filmmakers, notably Alan Parker. There are also vivid thumbnail sketches of a lot of others, such as David Puttnam, Ridley Scott, Michael Caine, John Daly etc. And this is why I am recommending it here.

    One thing is certain. I don’t think there is a single American filmmaker working today who could write a book half as good as this. Stone has an erudition, a cultural bandwidth and a self-awareness that comes across on every page. The son of a successful Jewish businessman and a French mother, he was brought up bilingual, bi-national and privileged. Not many directors could devote several pages to Homer these days or discuss a montage in Pierrot le Fou. Maybe only Paul Schrader could do that.

    Chasing the Light (great title) covers his childhood, his parent’s divorce, his tours of duty in Vietnam, his alienation from almost everything, his anarchism, his drug addiction, his paranoia, his marriages, his failures and successes. After Vietnam, where he got wounded and saw the man he killed, he lived frugally and wrote feverishly like some beat poet, somehow ending up with Robert Bolt as his mentor. Bolt taught him the practicalities of screenwriting and he also got Stone a serious agent. Consequently, his script for Platoon made the rounds and while no one wanted to make it, everyone recognised Stone’s talent as a writer - his script for Midnight Express earned him his first Oscar. He was suddenly an A-lister. Screenplays for three of Hollywood most compelling directors followed - John Milius, Brian de Palma and Michael Cimino and it while he was working with the latter that I first met him.

    Stone covers all this with unflinching honesty. Oliver Stone seemed to be stoned most of the time and until the raw and thrilling Salvador, the combative, opinionated and iconoclastic director was always just an inch away from rejection by the Hollywood establishment. But the book has an inevitable trajectory, running at a canter towards his Oscar-winning triumph with Platoon.

    One hopes for a second volume.
    Last edited by AdrianTurner; 31 July 2020, 01:37 PM.

  • #2
    I wonder if he mentions meeting me at Durham University a few years ago! Just kidding but I was lucky enough to attend an interview he gave. The entire thing is on YouTube and you can hear me ask him about U Turn. Great chap. Shook hands. His hand was like a bears.
    Last edited by MarcusHeslop(Stonfan); 1 August 2020, 02:52 PM.