Film and Shoebox novels
By Rob Elder
Oliver Stone believes there are limits to the First Amendment.
In a rare public
appearance, the controversial director of such films as
Natural Born Killers, and Nixon, came to
Portland in October to promote his first novel, A Child's Night
Dream. In a Q&A
session with the audience at the Portland Art Museum,
Stone talked about his work, the film industry, violence and the First
"There should be limits
to the First Amendment," Stone said when asked about violence
in film. Although Stone defended free speech in the arts, he said
that "people should not be able to promote or call for the destruction
of other human beings."
A Vietnam veteran,
Stone is very sensitive to violence and the value of
human life. After the acclaim he received for the semi-autobiographical
Platoon, Stone was haunted by one persistant question from the press.
Stone kill his Sergeant as Charlie Sheen's character did?
"No, I didn't kill
him, but I felt like I had become that type of
person. I certainly killed people- it warps you forever," the director
said. "The person who comes out is not going to be Forrest Gump."
career he has been followed by frequent criticism that
his films are too violent. "Violence is talked about
too much. It's become too sanitized," Stone
said. "There are other ways to deal with violence than just running
from it. In television, violence has no consequence or it is arrived at
Stone said he
wants to portray the ugliness of violence in an honest manner in his
"People are much
tougher on sex than violence on television," Stone
said. "You can tell a lot about a culture from how they respond to sex.
Maybe violence is a result of bad sex."
Stone also talked
about his roots as a film student at the New York University after
returning from Vietnam. Before he came to the stage, the
audience watched Last
Year in Vietnam- a short
film he made for a
class taught by Martin Scorcese.
"After the class
screened the film, Marty stopped and said, 'This is a
film maker.' I'll always remember that; it was very important to me,"
"Marty was one of
my first teachers at NYU. My films were terrible. But
he'd say, 'Don't worry, you'll do better. Do something personal.'" A Child's Night Dream, Stone's first book, is a
his personal narratives.
The novel is a
semi-autobiographical exploration of his experiences in
Vietnam and his return home after the war. The novel took 30 years to
complete, but spent most of that time in a shoebox. The project might
never been published if Stone had not casually mentioned the
book that he wrote in college to an editor at St. Martin¹s Press.
When asked if the
novel could ever become a film, Stone said:
"Yes, I mean, no.
I don't know quite yet."
asked the director for advice to young filmmakers.
first, unless you have something to say," Stone said.
"How do you get there? Hard work. -Or you can just work at a video
and freak out," he said, in reference to Quentin Tarantino.
the importance of variety and taking chances in film. "Don't make
personal films all the time or you get stale inside
yourself," he said. "Sometimes you have to make that Hollywood movie
commerical prosperity of Platoon and JFK and the
box office failure of Natural
Born Killers and Nixon, Stone
has had a rollercoaster relationship with success.
"I used Platoon to make Born on the Fourth of July. That
film was unmakeable before, and I still had to get Tom Cruise to work
nothing," Stone said.
"Then I had
another hand to play after JFK, so I made
Nixon. But now I've lost the card- I've
lost the hand, but I feel
good about it.