Beginning in 1986 with the release of his films “Salvador” and “Platoon,” Oliver Stone kicked off a decade-long run of remarkable success. Many of the controversial and stylistically brash films that he made during this era were box-office hits and established Stone, who twice won the Academy Award for best director, as a bold generational voice. While films like “Wall Street” and “Natural Born Killers” didn’t have a particularly nuanced take on the rotten amorality at our society’s core, and the treatment of the country’s self-deceptions in “Born on the Fourth of July” and “J.F.K.” wasn’t especially subtle, no one could deny that Stone’s work spoke directly to America’s dreams and nightmares. Since then, though, the director’s standing as a finger-on-the-pulse filmmaker has been gradually subsumed by the image of him as a political provocateur, thanks to his documentaries about the likes of Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin. But it’s the long lead-up to that golden year of 1986 that is the focus of Stone’s upcoming memoir, “Chasing the Light,” in which all his questionable bravado and self-admitted insecurity are on full display. “I never wanted arguments,” Stone says. “I never wanted to provoke. I was just seeking the truth.”
You’ve made a lot of movies and documentaries based on other people’s lives. Did that experience help you tell the story of your own? Well, I thought of the book as having the structure of a novel. You set up a problem in the first chapter: The protagonist is in a box. He’s in New York City, 1976. He’s broke. He feels like a failure and has to take his whole life into account. Then the novel winds its way into the 1986 period. It’s a picaresque. It’s a bit like a Thackeray novel.
Should I be reading into the fact that you’re calling your memoir a novel and referring to yourself in the third person? You can read what you want. It is “me,” but you have to distance yourself from yourself. That’s not to say you’re fictionalizing. If I write another book, which I hope to do, it’d be nice to get closer to where I am now. I’m not there yet. Making a film to close out your life? I don’t know. There might be a way. There have been some very nice farewell films. Mr. Kurosawa did “Rhapsody in August” — a very nice and gentle film.
Would you close out your life with a nice and gentle film? You think I’m so ungentle?
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