Before the international success of Platoon in 1986, Oliver Stone had been wounded as an infantryman in Vietnam, and spent years writing unproduced scripts while taking miscellaneous jobs and driving taxis in New York, finally venturing westward to Los Angeles and a new life. Stone, now 73, recounts those formative years with vivid details of the high and low moments: we sit at the table in meetings with Al Pacino over Stone’s scripts for Scarface, Platoon, and Born on the Fourth of July; relive the harrowing demon of cocaine addiction following the failure of his first feature, The Hand (starring Michael Caine); experience his risky on-the-ground research of Miami drug cartels for Scarface; and see his stormy relationship with The Deer Hunter director Michael Cimino. We also learn of the breathless hustles to finance the acclaimed and divisive Salvador; and witness tensions behind the scenes of his first Academy Award-winning film, Midnight Express.
The culmination of the book is the extraordinarily vivid recreation of filming Platoon in the depths of the Philippine jungle with Kevin Dillon, Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp et al, pushing himself, the crew and the young cast almost beyond breaking point. Written fearlessly, with intense detail and colour, Chasing the Light is a true insider’s story of Hollywood’s years of upheaval in the 1970s and ’80s, and Stone brings this period alive as only someone at the centre of the action truly can.
William Oliver Stone (born September 15, 1946) is an American film director, producer, and writer. Stone won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay as writer of Midnight Express (1978), and wrote the gangster movie Scarface (1983). Stone achieved prominence as writer and director of the war drama Platoon (1986), which won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture. Platoon was the first in a trilogy of films based on the Vietnam War, in which Stone served as an infantry soldier. He continued the series with Born on the Fourth of July (1989)—for which Stone won his second Best Director Oscar—and Heaven & Earth (1993). Stone’s other works include the Salvadoran Civil War-based drama Salvador (1986); the financial drama Wall Street (1987) and its sequel Money Never Sleeps (2010); the Jim Morrison biographical film The Doors (1991); the satirical black comedy crime film Natural Born Killers (1994); a trilogy of films based on the American Presidency: JFK (1991), Nixon (1995), and W. (2008); and Snowden (2016). Many of Stone’s films focus on controversial American political issues during the late 20th century, and as such were considered contentious at the times of their releases. They often combine different camera and film formats within a single scene, as demonstrated in JFK (1991), Natural Born Killers (1994), and Nixon (1995). Like his subject matter, Stone has become a controversial figure in American filmmaking, with critics accusing him of promoting unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, and of misrepresenting real-world events and figures in his works.