Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone

Hero? Spy? Vigilante? Villain? It’s still impossible to pinpoint exactly what the consensus is on Edward Snowden, but Oliver Stone is confident that the NSA leaker is a compelling enough subject to be the center of a biopic. The former CIA systems administrator turned Defense Intelligence Agency counterintelligence trainer turned National Intelligence Agency pot-stirrer very well may have changed the world — or at least the way we feel about complaining about the government in Facebook messages — when he publicized thousands of classified documents from the United States government; it was the biggest information dump since the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Naturally, his actions didn’t sit quite right with U.S. officials, meaning Snowden is currently hanging out somewhere in Russia after several failed attempts at finding asylum. His story’s got it all — intrigue, intelligence, dramatics, a fight and flight to save his freedom because he believed he was letting the American public have theirs — and now Stone and his producing partner Moritz Borman have obtained the rights to a book, “The Snowden Files: The Inside Look at the World’s Most Wanted Man,” that may help them understand a little bit more of what he was attempting to do. After all, he’s a little indisposed at the moment.

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stone

A lot of film fans had their eyes opened by the trippy blur of David Lynch, who showed them that movies need not be literal or especially concerned with losing audience members for one or two or all the moments. For me, such a cinematic shakeup didn’t come from Lynch, but Oliver Stone. Much like his underdog characters, he continually challenges the norms of his field. Throughout his career, Stone has been able to shift between yarns spun with either a calm eye or full-on bombast, whether he’s showing modern gladiators in Any Given Sunday, the fractured life of Richard Nixon, or hell’s dirty underbelly as depicted in U-Turn. It’s also obvious that Stone is a history nut, and, with The Untold History of The United States, he spent these past four years crafting a project he’s called his most “ambitious.” It’s a comprehensive, warts-and-all look at the behind-closed-doors shaping of America, all done in an approach we’ve come to expect from Stone. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Stone to talk about that approach, his greater body of film work and his antagonism toward perfection.

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Charlie Hunnam

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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MLK

It seems like there’s been a Martin Luther King Jr. biopic gestating somewhere in Hollywood ever since there was a Martin Luther King Jr. Sure an MLK might pop up in The Butler or Ali (the latter MLK played by LeVar Burton!) now and again, but you’d think that one of the most famous Americans of the 20th century would be generating biopics left and right. Most recently, the Paul Greengrass-scripted Memphis seemed like the frontrunner on that race to the mountaintop, but a dark horse has suddenly vaulted into the lead. It’s a horse made up of Oliver Stone and Jamie Foxx (and one reported on by The Wrap), and unlike Memphis, these two are predicted to have the support of the King family – somewhat of a necessity in making a King film. Stone is no stranger to the politically-charged biopic, and Foxx is more than capable of pulling off a dynamite performance when paired with the right director (see also: Ray, Collateral, Django Unchained). Both men have had their share of clunkers in recent years, but if Stone’s the right director for Foxx, then Martin Luther King Jr. will finally have a biopic worthy of all the good he did for this country. Unless Lee Daniels and David Oyelowo in Selma end up crossing the finish line first.

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first blood

In recent years some of the luster has come off of Oliver Stone’s career. He wasn’t always the guy who made movies like World Trade Center and Savages. Far from it, actually. He used to be the sort of respected director who cleaned up at the Oscars. One of the best-loved and most respected of the works from his peak was Born on the Fourth of July, a drama that not only earned him an Academy Award for Best Director and a nomination for Best Picture, but also went a long way toward making a serious actor out of its star, Tom Cruise. Cruise had become a huge name in the business thanks to roles in things like Risky Business and Top Gun, but before he did things like this and Rain Man, he still might have proved to be just a flash in the pan who opened a couple of big movies thanks to a pearly grin and a haircut, and then became a footnote. Even after all of these years though, Born on the Fourth of July is still considered to be one of the big entries in the highlight reel of Cruise’s career, and an argument could even be made that it still contains his very best performance. Ted Kotcheff isn’t a director whose career ever came near the heights of Stone’s. You might not have even heard of him if you aren’t a big fan of Weekend at Bernie’s or The Red Shoe Diaries. One big […]

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Savages Movie Marijuana

It turns out that if you want something that looks exactly like marijuana for your movie, Tomas Voth is a great resource to have. In this behind-the-scenes look at Savages, director Oliver Stone praises Voth – the production designer – for getting his hands dirty the synthetic way. Making fake marijuana is crucial because using real weed in movies is a federal no-no, but making it look real is a tough job. Watch as Stone explains how they grew fake pot for the flick:

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Savages 2012

It’s tough trying to figure which side of Oliver Stone’s career Savages would fall under. Part of the director’s output is fueled by an angry that’s always unafraid to show people at their ugliest. Then there’s another side, which we’ve seen these past few years, that’s much softer. While Stone’s recent work has been far from the image of a cuddly teddy bear — with the exception of familial scenes peppered throughout Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps — he’s become more empathetic towards his characters and less willing to poke fun at them, which was highlighted best by 2008’s W. Where does Savages fit between those two distinct outlooks? Somewhere comfortably in the middle. Based on Don Winslow‘s novel of the same name, Savages tells the bloody, dramatic, and comical tale of a three-way relationship taking a turn for the worst. The thinker, Ben (Aaron Johnson), and the doer, Chon (Taylor Kitsch), run a business together, providing some of the best weed in California. With business and life going too well, others attempt to cash in on their success, namely Elena, a major drug kingpin who features both genuine charm and ferocity, played by Salma Hayek. When Ben and Chon decline her business proposal, Elena hits them closest to home: their shared lover, O (Blake Lively). To get her back, Ben and Chon wage a small-scale war, attacking both the business and family side of Elena’s life.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Alright, so June didn’t exactly kick us into high gear the way it should have. We didn’t get another Avengers, a movie everyone lost their nuts over. From the blockbusters to the little guys, there was a lack in unanimous love and praise to be found. We did finally get Prometheus, a movie which could go down as this summer’s main topic of movie conversation over whether “It was awesome! No, it sucked!” but we get those all too often during this time of year. If we’re going to get one movie to feed the millions with true, big summer entertainment where all the harshest critics will be beaten across the world, then we got one ‘lil superhero movie coming up that may provoke such a reaction… The Amazing Spider-Man! Actually, no, but Marc Webb‘s reboot does pass the time nicely and, at the very least, gives us a new Peter Parker we can care about. But that doesn’t mean it made this list. Find out what did:

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Science fiction has long been considered by some experts to be a lesser genre than traditional dramas and character studies. Because it lends itself so easily to exploitation, science fiction isn’t always given the respect it deserves. Sure, it tends to be a box office winner, as evidenced by the fact that more than half of the all-time domestic grossing films fit easily in that genre (with at least two more – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Shrek 2 – marginally related as genre films). Still, some still consider science fiction something not to be taken seriously. It is for this reason that “legitimate” film directors might shy away from science fiction in lieu of more important or significant projects. However, many directors got their start or their earliest fame from working in science fiction and other allegedly exploitative and pulp genres. This week’s release of Prometheus reminds us that even though Ridley Scott has directed historical epics (Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven), military action films (Black Hawk Down), crime thrillers (American Gangster) and straight dramas (Thelma & Louise), he got his start in science fiction with Alien and Blade Runner. Scott isn’t the only director to begin a successful career in science fiction. Here are seven other directors who started out or received some of their earliest success in this genre.

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The other day, I labeled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as the “wild card” of the summer, and if there’s any other film which comes close to its riskiness (or more so?), it’s Oliver Stone‘s adaptation of Don Winslow‘s book of the same name, Savages. Stone’s pic is an unconventional summer movie: an R-rated, hard-edged movie for adults. Based on what I’ve heard from the positive test-screenings, which led to the film getting bumped up to a summer release, Savages lives up to that riskiness, with Salma Hayek and John Travolta possibly being the two standouts. Now, with over a month until release, some terrific behind-the-scenes pics from the film have been released (via Oliver Stone’s website and the film’s Facebook page). Take a peak of a bloodied up Blake Lively and Benicio Del Toro‘s lovely evil ‘stache after the break:

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Nothing says “summer at the movies” quite like a metric ton of big name blockbusters flooding theaters near you – superheroes on top of superheroes, classic television series brought back from the dead, animated gems about finding yourself – oh my! But with the cinema summer growing ever-larger, the stakes being pushed ever-higher, and enough content to keep audience members in their seats ever-longer, a line has to be drawn somewhere. Which is why all the members of the Voting Body of Film School Rejects gathered together in our secret chambers to vote on just which films have won our Most Anticipated nod. Twenty films emerged from our complicated, decades-old voting process (read: a Google doc) to be crowned winners. Why twenty? Well, there are twenty weeks in the cinematic summer season (if you count May, which we do – April will be included next year if Hollywood keeps this up), and that should give you movie-lovers a reasonable goal to meet for the viewing season. We’ve even managed to pinpoint our most anticipated movie-going weekend of the summer – June 22nd, when four films open in theaters, all of which made our list. But beyond the mathematics that went into picking the summer’s best weekend, there were also some genuine surprises on the list – including big tentpole films missing completely (sorry, Battleship and Dark Shadows), some indies that sneaked in with lots of votes, a battle royale that went down between our number one and number two picks, […]

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Oliver Stone’s adaptation of the oppressively hip Don Winslow novel Savages’ has been making a lot of waves on FSR today. First we showed you the teaser for the film, something like the trailer for the trailer (a new marketing trend that could get hilariously annoying if it becomes more pervasive), and now we’ve got the the full length trailer for the film; which adds some actual plot description to the loud noises and sexy imagery of the teaser.

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Trailers for trailers are generally underwhelming and don’t give us much information to go off of. This preview for the Savages trailer, which is scheduled to hit online soon, happens to be an exception to the rule. This tease shows the Oliver Stone we haven’t seen since the 90s, an energetic and propulsive Stone. In the vein of Natural Born Killers and the hugely underrated U-Turn, Savages looks to have a fun, dirty, and stylish atmosphere. After a terrific test screening Universal bumped the film up for a summer release, believing it’s got real financial potential. While an Oliver Stone film about young pot dealers clashing with a drug cartel doesn’t scream “box-office smash”, I’ve heard Savages has commercial appeal. I recently spoke to someone who saw the film, and they had plenty of positive things to say, namely about Salma Hayek and John Travolta‘s performances. Apparently if you’re a Stone fan, such as myself, you may see this as a big return to form. Check out the short but stylish teaser below.

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Culture Warrior

There are those on the right who have said that Game Change is a partisan smear. At the same time, some on the left may have gone into the program expecting a SNL-style “look-how-dumb-Palin-is” work of predictable affirmation. But while hit jobs and hagiographies might make for effective 30-second political ads, they can’t sustain a two-hour block of television. Game Change, by contrast, is a gripping (though by no means perfect) two-hour block of television. But the term “block of television” does not necessarily carry the same connotations as “TV movie.” The distinction here is important. Game Change’s central thesis is not a political point about either John McCain or Sarah Palin as candidates (what could a TV movie possibly say that’s new or urgent in this respect?), but is instead a lamentation about how our political landscape is determined (on all sides of the ideological spectrum) by the media cycles of Celebrity 2.0. HBO has been preoccupied for quite some time by the major chapters in American history, rolling out expensive and impressive miniseries detailing the canonical moments that Americans learned about during their primary education: whether it be The Revolutionary War and the stories of the Founding Fathers (John Adams (2008)), WWII (Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010)), or man’s journey to the moon (From the Earth to the Moon). However, HBO’s original programming has also taken microscopic examinations of recent, not-so-canonized history with smaller-scale projects like Recount (2008), Too Big to Fail (2011), and, of […]

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Drinking Games

You have the movie poster for your dorm room. You have the T-shirt. You have the bling. Now, you can pick up Brian DePalma’s classic gangster movie Scarface on Blu-ray for the first time. And if you’re gonna take a spare three hours to watch the film, why not sip on your favorite beverage in the process? This movie is Brian DePalma, Al Pacino and Oliver Stone at their best. Trust me, it’s better than watching a triple feature of Mission to Mars, S1m0ne and Alexander.

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I wish I got this interview on video. Emile Hirsch was acting like he just came off a late night of drinking countless Red Bulls. The actor couldn’t have been more energetic and enthusiastic about everything he was saying. It threw me at times, for sure, but it was refreshing on some level. Here is a young actor that does not take himself seriously at all and that does not come off pretentious, at least that’s the impression I got. Hirsch was at Comic-Con promoting the under-the-radar alien-invasion film, The Darkest Hour. The film had no Hall H presence, but a press event was held at the pain-in-the-ass Hard Rock Hotel. The concept art I saw presented the film as an atmospheric and small invasion film set in Mother Russia. The aliens decided not to stop by Los Angeles or New York for the thousandth time. Here’s what Emile Hirsch had to say about the scope of the film, how it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and how Speed Racer was ahead of its time:

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Jared Harris must be one of the few lucky actors to play a non-evil doctor in a horror movie. The biggest convention John Carpenter avoids in his return to the screen is taking the possible role of a villain, and making a doctor that is actually interested in helping his patients. Harris doesn’t chew up any scenery and, as the actor points out, isn’t playing ‘Dracula’. Speaking of Dracula, Harris revealed he’s a big admirer of Francis Ford Coppola‘s version. Yes, not a very good transition, but how many people actually love that film? Not many, unfortunately. And, of course, we did discus Mad Men. Last season was arguably the show’s finest hour. Matthew Weiner showed nearly the whole ensemble at their lowest and most vulnerable. There was no real reason to ask Harris about the next season — considering it’s a bit far off from actually shooting — but Harris and I did talk about Lane Pryce’s place in the “boy’s club” as well as the revealing drama of last season. Here’s what actor Jared Harris had to say about not hamming things up, Carpenter’s professionalism, and great scripts making bad movies… and fair warning, our talk features spoilers for The Ward.

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It was a month ago that I first heard about Oliver Stone directing an adaptation of the Don Winslow Novel “Savages.” A couple of the key male roles had been cast, but Jennifer Lawrence was out as the female protagonist, O, due to her involvement in The Hunger Games. Now Stone and company seem to have found their new choice to play O, and they’ve filled out a couple of the other key roles as well. The three main characters of the film are Chon, Ben, and O, two dudes and a chick who start a successful grow operation and find themselves running afoul of a dangerous Mexican drug cartel. When we last saw Savages it had already cast Taylor Kitsch as the ex Navy SEAL Chon, Aaron Johnson as the botany expert Ben, and Salma Hayek as the head of the cartel Elena. This time Deadline Laguna reports that not only has Gossip Girl star Blake Lively been chosen to play O, but also a few big names have been approached to join the cast as well.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It is a nightly movie news column dedicated to featuring painfully overtread characters from the part of the Marvel universe owned (cinematically, at least) by the 20th Century Fox corporation. It might as well be called X-Men After Dark. Hmm… maybe Fox will buy some sponsorship rights. They need all the help they can get after X-Men Origins: Wolverine. “A good Wolverine film could be an amazing thing.” Duncan Jones said this mere days before he confirmed that he will take a meeting with 20th Century Fox about the possibility of directing The Wolverine, taking a director’s chair left empty by the departure of Darren Aronofsky. As geek cred goes, Jones has perhaps as much as anyone working right now following Moon and Source Code, and he’s smart enough to pull it off. Here’s hoping the project is a good fit and that Fox makes the right call.

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Adapting Don Winslow’s novel “Savages” has been on Oliver Stone’s to-do list for quite some time. Well now quite a bit of news about how his efforts are coming together has come to light. I’m not familiar with Mr. Winslow’s work, so the first thing I did when trying to put together this article was figure out what “Savages” was all about. During my search I came across this blurb, apparently from the book’s publisher, that was just too hilarious not to share: “Baditude. Bad attitude. Ben, Chon, and O have a bad case of it, but so would you if you were the twenty-something Laguna-cool producers of the best hydro on the Left Coast and now a powerful and vicious Mexican cartel wants in on your business. Ben’s a genius botanist out to save the world. Chon’s a former SEAL with a “Post-Traumatic Lack Of Stress Disorder.” O is a South Orange County slacker girl who loves them both. When the cartel kidnaps O to keep the boys in line, serious baditude breaks out in this twenty-first-century thriller that blasts through all the old rules and blows the lid off the genre. But that’s baditude for you.”

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