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Chasing the Light: Writing, Directing, and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador, and the Movie Game

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An intimate memoir by the controversial and outspoken Oscar-winning director and screenwriter about his complicated New York childhood, volunteering for combat, and his struggles and triumphs making such films as Platoon, Midnight Express, and Scarface. Before the international success of Platoon in 1986, Oliver Stone had been wounded as an infantryman in Vietnam, and spent An intimate memoir by the controversial and outspoken Oscar-winning director and screenwriter about his complicated New York childhood, volunteering for combat, and his struggles and triumphs making such films as Platoon, Midnight Express, and Scarface. 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 driving taxis in New York, finally venturing westward to Los Angeles and a new life. Stone, now 73, recounts those formative years with in-the-moment details of the high and low moments: We see meetings with Al Pacino over Stone’s scripts for Scarface, Platoon, and Born on the Fourth of July; the harrowing demon of cocaine addiction following the failure of his first feature, The Hand (starring Michael Caine); his risky on-the-ground research of Miami drug cartels for Scarface; his stormy relationship with The Deer Hunter director Michael Cimino; the breathless hustles to finance the acclaimed and divisive Salvador; and tensions behind the scenes of his first Academy Award–winning film, Midnight Express. Chasing the Light is a true insider’s look at Hollywood’s years of upheaval in the 1970s and ’80s.


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An intimate memoir by the controversial and outspoken Oscar-winning director and screenwriter about his complicated New York childhood, volunteering for combat, and his struggles and triumphs making such films as Platoon, Midnight Express, and Scarface. Before the international success of Platoon in 1986, Oliver Stone had been wounded as an infantryman in Vietnam, and spent An intimate memoir by the controversial and outspoken Oscar-winning director and screenwriter about his complicated New York childhood, volunteering for combat, and his struggles and triumphs making such films as Platoon, Midnight Express, and Scarface. 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 driving taxis in New York, finally venturing westward to Los Angeles and a new life. Stone, now 73, recounts those formative years with in-the-moment details of the high and low moments: We see meetings with Al Pacino over Stone’s scripts for Scarface, Platoon, and Born on the Fourth of July; the harrowing demon of cocaine addiction following the failure of his first feature, The Hand (starring Michael Caine); his risky on-the-ground research of Miami drug cartels for Scarface; his stormy relationship with The Deer Hunter director Michael Cimino; the breathless hustles to finance the acclaimed and divisive Salvador; and tensions behind the scenes of his first Academy Award–winning film, Midnight Express. Chasing the Light is a true insider’s look at Hollywood’s years of upheaval in the 1970s and ’80s.

30 review for Chasing the Light: Writing, Directing, and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador, and the Movie Game

  1. 4 out of 5

    Robert Appleton

    I’ll have to admit, I was slightly disappointed when I learned that Oliver Stone’s autobiographical ‘Chasing the Light’ only covered his life up to his breakthrough success with Platoon. He made several great films after that, including some of the most fascinating and controversial of that generation: Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, and Natural Born Killers. What he’s given us here, though, feels neither truncated nor incomplete. Stone is interested in the forces that shaped him as a person an I’ll have to admit, I was slightly disappointed when I learned that Oliver Stone’s autobiographical ‘Chasing the Light’ only covered his life up to his breakthrough success with Platoon. He made several great films after that, including some of the most fascinating and controversial of that generation: Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, and Natural Born Killers. What he’s given us here, though, feels neither truncated nor incomplete. Stone is interested in the forces that shaped him as a person and an artist, as well as the seeds of his mad ambition, which partly manifested themselves in his tempestuous filmmaking experiences. It’s a self-portrait: raw, emotional, brutally honest. Here we have the antithesis of the cliched shallow, ego-stroking Hollywood autobiography, as the writer-director lays bare his flaws and failures alongside his hard-fought victories. From a happy, sheltered upbringing in New York’s Upper East Side – his stoic Jewish father worked on Wall Street, his vivacious French mother courted the Bohemian society – to his parents’ crushing divorce, on to his nomadic wanderings around South-East Asia, which led to him volunteering to fight in Vietnam, Stone’s early journey is joyful, sad, and a whirlwind of broken dreams and stirring passions. The way he describes himself, his spiral into aimlessness, we can see the adversities accumulate, forces that could either break a young man or forge him into something vital. It took time, heartbreaks, perseverance, and help along the way for him to find his personal spark in the creative process and fan it into screenplays that would blaze with his particular vision. Even after he’d gained his foothold in Hollywood, he had to fight an uphill, Sisyphean battle every time, often to no avail. And the successes along the way, like Midnight Express and Scarface, inflicted wounds, both professionally and personally, that he carried into future projects. Lessons learned the hard way. At times Stone was his own worst enemy, by his own admission. Hubris, cocaine, naivety, arrogance, bad choices: his honesty is welcome, his self-analysis illuminating. I knew, by reputation, that he could be abrasive, but I didn’t realise how fragile his confidence could be. He’s a complicated guy, no question, and to his credit he digs deep to try to grapple with those contradictory forces. Greek mythology has clearly had a profound influence on him. The way he approaches this literary self-portrait reminds me of his treatment of Alexander the Great – firstly, identify the forces that shaped what he would become, and then weave them throughout his life story, sometimes in non-linear fashion, with flashbacks, asides, and stream-of-consciousness passages. He never loses sight of those formative influences – his parents, their divorce, mythology, movies, combat, politics, etc. – and it’s a pleasure to see him address them at the various stages of his arduous climb to the top. Salvador and Platoon were the double-whammy that thrust him to the front ranks of American filmmakers in the mid-eighties. What’s clear from his behind-the-scenes accounts of those productions (and indeed the crazy journeys of the projects to production) is that he earned every bit of his success. Chasing the Light is a riveting read. There’s rarely a dull page in this frank, fiercely self-aware autobiography. I’ve been a fan of Oliver Stone’s work for years, both as a writer and director, and this book has only bolstered my appreciation. It’s a scintillating chronicle of an artist’s almost Homeric struggle to discover, and eventually to blaze onto the screen, his own maverick, personal vision. Highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ron S

    A well told memoir of the first 40 years of Stone's life, with a lot of detail about the trials and tribulations of movie making. This is not a Hollywood star's look back at sexual escapades and bad behavior and addiction issues (not that these things are entirely absent), but an attempt to remember and make sense of one's journey through life coupled with a lot of insight into the process of film making.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    I won this book in a goodreads drawing. Oliver Stone was a controversial but successful film maker for years, but is now on the wrong side of PC and will probably never make another movie. Most of his early life is the same sort of cookie cutter upper class Baby Boomer stuff until his parents divorce in the early 60's. From there, he breaks with his parents, dropping out of Yale, writing, going to Vietnam, where he gets PTSD, and being obsessed with Jim Morrison. Then he slowly but surely starts o I won this book in a goodreads drawing. Oliver Stone was a controversial but successful film maker for years, but is now on the wrong side of PC and will probably never make another movie. Most of his early life is the same sort of cookie cutter upper class Baby Boomer stuff until his parents divorce in the early 60's. From there, he breaks with his parents, dropping out of Yale, writing, going to Vietnam, where he gets PTSD, and being obsessed with Jim Morrison. Then he slowly but surely starts on the path to making movies, where he is extremely successful. I always felt like he wussed out in The Doors, ignoring the several conspiracy theories surrounding Morrison's death. I don't feel like I understand Stone any better after reading this, or like him any more, but it's still very readable.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brian Niemiec

    It's Oliver Stone and it's about himself, so naturally it's self-indulgent, but that doesn't make it any less good. Stone is and always has been a solid writer. It feels like he's being honest about his relationships and the highs and lows of making Salvador and Platoon. There's so much more to his story, like a rich catalog of film in the 90s. I hope he writes a follow-up.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    It's very honest--a little catty and overly arrogant--but illuminating. The book covers the director's early life and early work and his most interesting films (post-Platoon) are left, possibly, for the next memoir. He does spend a sufficient amount of time trashing James Woods' behavior on the set of Salvadore, which was a particularly fun part.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary Clarke

    I really loved this book and it's even better if you listen to Oliver Stone narrating it on Audible. I am fitter as a result of listening to it as I had to keep on walking to find out what happened next. What happened him when he was a child is heart-breaking and it had a huge impact on his life. He ends the book on a high, when he is 40. What a journey! This man is a true warrior, warts and all! Looking forward to the next one.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Mixed feelings about this one. While I have loved some of his movies and was happy to read about the making of them, up to a point, Stone goes on and on and on, ad nauseam, about problems with funding, filming, whatever. It got so I was just swiping away while reading on my Kindle. The most fascinating parts of his story were his childhood and time spent in France when he was a kid. I had no idea he was half French and his parents met in Paris during WWII. Interesting and then it ends abruptly. Mixed feelings about this one. While I have loved some of his movies and was happy to read about the making of them, up to a point, Stone goes on and on and on, ad nauseam, about problems with funding, filming, whatever. It got so I was just swiping away while reading on my Kindle. The most fascinating parts of his story were his childhood and time spent in France when he was a kid. I had no idea he was half French and his parents met in Paris during WWII. Interesting and then it ends abruptly. Almost seems like in the middle of a thought.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chris DiLeo

    This was an excellent read with some great insight into Stone's life, creativity, and approach to making movies. The book covers the first forty years of his life, specifically focusing on his tour in Vietnam and then the subsequent twenty years trying to make it in the film business, culminating with the success of PLATOON. Many readers will be interested in his stories about fellow Hollywood-types and his partying, etc., but I was far more intrigued by his drive to write screenplays and direct This was an excellent read with some great insight into Stone's life, creativity, and approach to making movies. The book covers the first forty years of his life, specifically focusing on his tour in Vietnam and then the subsequent twenty years trying to make it in the film business, culminating with the success of PLATOON. Many readers will be interested in his stories about fellow Hollywood-types and his partying, etc., but I was far more intrigued by his drive to write screenplays and direct movies. I would've liked even more of that, in fact, along the line of the Paul Simon biography that focused almost exclusively on how Simon wrote his songs. That said, there are still great Stone-insights throughout the book that relate to the creative drive and the imaginative mind. Much space is devoted (although even more could have been) to PLATOON, a masterpiece of filmmaking, and what is so intriguing is that for Stone the film was the movie he'd always wanted to make but he had no delusions about it. He didn't himself consider it brilliant—but he did strive for it to be honest. And in that sense, this book succeeds.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Thrillers R Us

    The table of contents is the threshold where you cross into the madness of Oliver Stone's mind. Fret not, it's not an all access pass into every remote corner; only those areas which serve the purpose of Stone's memoir get the revealing beam of historic light. That is, the journey from young man, to the sweltering grasp of the Vietnam War, the cold reception and hard life back in the World, and through the mosaic of beatnik NYC, film school, and finally the path from screenwriter to acclaime The table of contents is the threshold where you cross into the madness of Oliver Stone's mind. Fret not, it's not an all access pass into every remote corner; only those areas which serve the purpose of Stone's memoir get the revealing beam of historic light. That is, the journey from young man, to the sweltering grasp of the Vietnam War, the cold reception and hard life back in the World, and through the mosaic of beatnik NYC, film school, and finally the path from screenwriter to acclaimed director. The gist of the story is that the Vietnam War and Stone's desire to please his (absent?) father shaped who he became as a young man and subsequently as screenwriter and director. The Vietnam excerpts are not as satisfying as a full treatment of Stone's 15 months in-country could be or as illustrative as A CHILD'S NIGHT DREAM (1997) was. They do, however, serve as a segue into writing more and taking the clay of violence that war left on his psyche and shape it into stories that pushed the envelope of filmed entertainment. It seems that Stone left one quagmire behind in Vietnam and kept trading up once he returned from overseas service. Penury is replaced with a spartan & emotionally draining writer's life and ultimately with the swamp of foreign locations while trying to get films financed, produced and finished. CHASING THE LIGHT shines when Stone relates industry snippets, star gossip, film making advice and the plight of getting a movie made from idea to theater. Whether you agree with Oliver Stone's personal philosophy, his recent public persona, the perception slant (of social and mainstream media), or whether or not you like the movies Oliver stone has written and/or directed, CHASING THE LIGHT is an important read for anyone interested in writing (for the movies), film making or a fascinating tale of the American Dream.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Wil

    An infinitely readable book; whatever one's thoughts might be on Oliver Stone, the man sure can write. Reading this, I was struck at how precipitous our lives and what exists truly is. The amount of times Stone came close to giving up on film or was nearly bankrupt, or even close to death, and the landscape of cinema would be changed forever. Even the films themselves, things we imagine to simply spring up with a fair amount of ease, took an incredible amount of effort, toll, and money and were An infinitely readable book; whatever one's thoughts might be on Oliver Stone, the man sure can write. Reading this, I was struck at how precipitous our lives and what exists truly is. The amount of times Stone came close to giving up on film or was nearly bankrupt, or even close to death, and the landscape of cinema would be changed forever. Even the films themselves, things we imagine to simply spring up with a fair amount of ease, took an incredible amount of effort, toll, and money and were so very, very close to never being at all. To think how different his life, and by extension, our own, truly might be based off razor's edge decisions or outcomes. It's summed up nicely by this quote in the book: "Possibility is a strong aphrodisiac."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Armand Rosamilia

    Despite Oliver Stone directing two of my favorite movies, I knew next to nothing about him. What I thought I knew: he was simply a politically polarizing man who enjoyed controversy. This autobiography sheds light on his upbringing, his parents, his forays into not only directing but writing, dealing with the politics of movies and so much more. He's honest about his missteps and where he went wrong in his past, and what he's learned (if at all) from them. The insider's look into his first few m Despite Oliver Stone directing two of my favorite movies, I knew next to nothing about him. What I thought I knew: he was simply a politically polarizing man who enjoyed controversy. This autobiography sheds light on his upbringing, his parents, his forays into not only directing but writing, dealing with the politics of movies and so much more. He's honest about his missteps and where he went wrong in his past, and what he's learned (if at all) from them. The insider's look into his first few movies is amazing as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Darren Kernan

    Detailing Stones early years until his Oscar night for Platoon. This documents his journey to creating the warm film and while Stone can come across as arrogant, selfish and unlikable as person, this seems due to his honesty. He doesn't sugar coat who he was, what he did or what he thinks. It makes for a better read as you can sense he frustration and anger and struggles for his passion all the more.

  13. 4 out of 5

    E. Nicholas

    My God, this was such a rollicking good read. Lively and entertaining, brutally honest at times. Ostensibly, the book is billed as a Hollywood memoir, but it's really a tale of perseverance, of pursuing a dream at all costs, of staying true oneself in the face of a thousand different obstacles and setbacks, only to finally break through at 40 -- an age in which most people in Hollywood are already considered washed up. Maybe I'm biased as a Hollywood screenwriter who's also in his late 30s and o My God, this was such a rollicking good read. Lively and entertaining, brutally honest at times. Ostensibly, the book is billed as a Hollywood memoir, but it's really a tale of perseverance, of pursuing a dream at all costs, of staying true oneself in the face of a thousand different obstacles and setbacks, only to finally break through at 40 -- an age in which most people in Hollywood are already considered washed up. Maybe I'm biased as a Hollywood screenwriter who's also in his late 30s and often feels like he's battling an impossible system, but I found Stone's story to be incredibly inspiring. Granted, who the hell knows how much of this is actually true or what unsavory details Stone might have left out, but the book that's here is really fantastic. Anyone interested in Hollywood or Stone's work or what it takes to be a writer/director in Hollywood will enjoy this immensely. Of that, I have no doubt.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Hall

    Just finished Oliver Stone’s mesmerising and poetic autobiography, recounting his turbulent career up to the making of Platoon in 1986. Whatever you think of his films or some of his views, he’s a gifted writer and comes across as very human. It has made me go back to his early films and I’m struck by how gritty and political they are in an age where Top Gun gloss ruled. I am looking forward to part two very much.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Concentrates mainly on his work prior and up to PLATOON. Some mention of WALL STREET, but the films after PLATOON aren't examined - probably in an upcoming volume looking at the years on top, and afterwards.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jon Flick

    I purchased 'Chasing the Light' the day it came out. I recall a heated argument with my girlfriend after leaving the theatre on the morality of Tom Berenger's character in 'Platoon.' Reading 'Chasing The Light' I flashbacked faster than one could sing "In-A-Gadda-Da- Vida' to those turbulent yet eye-opening times of "Nixon's coming" and 'The Lizard King' twitching his tail. I felt akin to Stone for I trod his trail. Longing for a divorced parent's gaze. Learning to chug Mad Dog and dance unashamed I purchased 'Chasing the Light' the day it came out. I recall a heated argument with my girlfriend after leaving the theatre on the morality of Tom Berenger's character in 'Platoon.' Reading 'Chasing The Light' I flashbacked faster than one could sing "In-A-Gadda-Da- Vida' to those turbulent yet eye-opening times of "Nixon's coming" and 'The Lizard King' twitching his tail. I felt akin to Stone for I trod his trail. Longing for a divorced parent's gaze. Learning to chug Mad Dog and dance unashamedly to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes with my black brothers in the infantry. Stone has always shimmied to the beat of his own drum and I appreciated the fact that he didn't slap himself on the back in this book. It only covers his quest to quench his hunger ... Not the glossy hangover of success. I in fact joined Goodreads just to review this book. I have my own tome reviewed by readers on this beneficial site, "The Bogus Buzz." Along the same psychedelic times. Escaping the nuns to partake of the forbidden fruit of the seventies. Stone's pen is as prolific as his vision behind the camera. I hope he reads this review because even though I am 63, he still inspired me. I only saw him from afar when I dressed like it was a hot and humid Miami night as an extra at the Hollywood Palladium when he was filming the scene of Morrison's rumored exposure for 'The Doors' movie. This is a must read for anyone that contemplated what the message was leaving his movies.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Agranoff

    Oliver Stone is an interesting writer-director for me. I think when he is on Salvador, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Natural Born Killers, U-Turn he is great. He has made some turds like Alexander etc. So when I saw that he had written a book about his early career I thought it would be interesting. I have enjoyed interviews with him and learned a few things about story-telling. One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from him. "Ass plus chair equals writing," I often say you can't Oliver Stone is an interesting writer-director for me. I think when he is on Salvador, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Natural Born Killers, U-Turn he is great. He has made some turds like Alexander etc. So when I saw that he had written a book about his early career I thought it would be interesting. I have enjoyed interviews with him and learned a few things about story-telling. One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from him. "Ass plus chair equals writing," I often say you can't write a novel without that equation. The frame that this memoir hangs on is the years Oliver Stone worked in the Hollywood salt mines. His early life, his parents, going to war, screenwriting, and up to the moment when he was at the top of the film world when Platoon upset the Oscars and swept the major awards. It is a success story that is not exactly rags to riches in a straight line. Stone won the Oscar for writing Midnight Express. It is interesting to see how winning the major prize didn't guarantee he would get the movies he wanted to make. I was somewhat interested in his early life and upbringing, once it got into Hollywood life and cocaine I was a little uncomfortable how sad some of that stuff was. I liked some of the details behind his Conan script which I have read and really enjoyed. A few of the projects that never happened was interesting. His struggles with his first horror movie The Hand were OK. The stories of what a jerk James Woods was in the production of Salvador was not surprising but very interesting considering he has become a big Trumper The thing is this information and the stories were fine but really were more fitting for a DVD audio commentary or a long-form interview like Marc Maron or Terry Gross. That is my biggest problem with this book is that I wanted these stories I just don't think it was worth 300 pages and taking away from other reading.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tony Mac

    This typically robust memoir from the acclaimed American film director Oliver Stone reads just like one of his movies - entertaining, blunt, honest, opinionated, unsubtle yet sometimes strangely pretentious. It’s essentially a coming of age story climaxing with the triumph of Platoon, and it leaves you thirsty for more. Like the movie writer he is, Stone knows how to structure his book into acts and keep things flowing. The memoir format allows him a bit more artistic license than the more formal This typically robust memoir from the acclaimed American film director Oliver Stone reads just like one of his movies - entertaining, blunt, honest, opinionated, unsubtle yet sometimes strangely pretentious. It’s essentially a coming of age story climaxing with the triumph of Platoon, and it leaves you thirsty for more. Like the movie writer he is, Stone knows how to structure his book into acts and keep things flowing. The memoir format allows him a bit more artistic license than the more formal structures of autobiography. Here he can be more internalised, thematic, philosophical: very much the questioning young man struggling to find himself right into early middle age. His descriptions of Vietnam are vivid, even exciting; an uncontrolled hell on earth at times, matched only by the chaos of independent movie making in unstable environments. How this guy got Salvador and Platoon made (back to back!) is a miracle. I’ve never read anything that describes the sheer ground-shifting insanity of movie-making better than this. It’s nerve-shredding stuff. A curious thing about Stone emerges. He writes in some detail about his parents, wives and film collaborators, but nowhere in this longish memoir, covering 40 years, does he ever mentions friends. If there is a long-standing network of close, influential buddies who track through his life he fails to give them any space here. Is he really such a loner? Who knows? He is fairly confessional at times yet still manages to emerge as a bit of an enigma. What a life though! I so hope he brings out a Part Two.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mediaman

    Long, laborious, and preaching distortions of truth. That doesn't just describe Oliver Stone's films but this book. He is so long-winded, insecure, and rambling that it's difficult to walk away from the book liking him at all. Stone seems to brag about his incredible volume of illegal drug consumption, his drinking, his womanizing, his bizarre mixture of politics (loving liberals but having conservative streaks), and his attraction to violence. The guy has quite a few screws loose from his drug Long, laborious, and preaching distortions of truth. That doesn't just describe Oliver Stone's films but this book. He is so long-winded, insecure, and rambling that it's difficult to walk away from the book liking him at all. Stone seems to brag about his incredible volume of illegal drug consumption, his drinking, his womanizing, his bizarre mixture of politics (loving liberals but having conservative streaks), and his attraction to violence. The guy has quite a few screws loose from his drug abuse and Vietnam years, as is evident in his movies and even more so in this book. The biggest problem is that half way through the 340 pages he still was in his 20s and talking about the start of his career--so I realized that this book wasn't going to tell his whole life story. And he does stop the book at age 40, after winning the Oscar for Platoon. That's very disappointing--it doesn't allow the proper life perspective. While Stone thinks he's self-analyzing throughout, he really is just acting humble, looking for another buck or affirmation, and is never really seeking the truth. Oliver Stone is a soulless man of great darkness, who distorts truth, never seems to really find the light. Family doesn't do it for him. Neither do drugs, alcohol, liberal politics, awards, sex, or violence. He comes across as an incredibly unhappy man who doesn't deserve the praise he receives for writing or directing violent films. This book is evidence that he has failed in chasing the light.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Though the guy’s got some political viewpoints that can only be described as crazy/nutso, I very much enjoyed getting to know him here. I like the guy, and man he can write. His prose is outstandingly colorful and even beautiful at times. He writes with honesty (or, at least, it sounds pretty honest) and if he seems to bask in his own glory towards the end a bit much, you gotta give the guy credit for getting some great movies made in impossible circumstances. Stone himself has a crazy history. Though the guy’s got some political viewpoints that can only be described as crazy/nutso, I very much enjoyed getting to know him here. I like the guy, and man he can write. His prose is outstandingly colorful and even beautiful at times. He writes with honesty (or, at least, it sounds pretty honest) and if he seems to bask in his own glory towards the end a bit much, you gotta give the guy credit for getting some great movies made in impossible circumstances. Stone himself has a crazy history. He writes about his parents with tenderness despite tensions. He’d spent time in prison, has a history with drugs, all of which makes for an intense read. But the insane low-budget film shoots, which really don’t happen till closer to the end, are the highlight. Great read, insightful, entertaining. Would love to hang with Stone after reading this, albeit without the shots of tequila and lines of coke. It’s interesting because everyone in Hollywood comes off as an egomaniac, or neurotic, or a habitual liar, or a con man. But I’m following this up with As You Wish, about the making of the Princess Bride, which is as happy and jolly as a film shoot gets, everyone gushing over each other. The contrast is startling.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Carlson

    Multi Academy Award winner director, film maker and writer Olive Stone gives a detailed, reflective account of his life up to the making of Best Picture Platoon in Chasing the Light (pp. 352.) While I never enjoyed Platoon I can now again watch it with a new appreciation because it seems to be a page taken right out of his own life. If I had to pick my favorite of his movies it would be Salvador and Wall Street. The least is Born on the 4th of July. No surprise some of Hollywood elite are terrib Multi Academy Award winner director, film maker and writer Olive Stone gives a detailed, reflective account of his life up to the making of Best Picture Platoon in Chasing the Light (pp. 352.) While I never enjoyed Platoon I can now again watch it with a new appreciation because it seems to be a page taken right out of his own life. If I had to pick my favorite of his movies it would be Salvador and Wall Street. The least is Born on the 4th of July. No surprise some of Hollywood elite are terrible to work with and much of what is said about agents etc could have been omitted. However, it's what Stone an only child has to say about his family, Mom and Dad, his experience with college, writing and his natural ability in being a contrarian which is far more arresting. Stone seems to illustrate the power of perseverance by moving forward despite all odds. Despite his own knack to self-destruct. It is reflective of what we understand so many times when we are alone fighting for our own survival, beliefs and passion. We are all in reality chasing the light.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Studvet

    A 4.5. Engrossing, fascinating, involving, illustrative of Hollywood behind the scenes. Much better than expected and got better and more gripping the further on it went and once he started his "proper" career and became associated with so many great films. Only goes up to, and including, Platoon. Half a star off as at times tended to be egotistical, grandiose and and a bit self - indulgent. However this was early in the book, the least interesting part, but ebbed in the last half of the book as A 4.5. Engrossing, fascinating, involving, illustrative of Hollywood behind the scenes. Much better than expected and got better and more gripping the further on it went and once he started his "proper" career and became associated with so many great films. Only goes up to, and including, Platoon. Half a star off as at times tended to be egotistical, grandiose and and a bit self - indulgent. However this was early in the book, the least interesting part, but ebbed in the last half of the book as things kicked into gear and his observations and analyses were truly interesting, fascinating and instructive. A truely original thinker with balls to go with his instincts, even if some of his films, like JFK, are downright loopy. His movies are always a great watch as so visceral, entertaining and Stone pulls no punches, so surely what movies are meant to be about. One of the greats because of this.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Excellent guide-book to not just Hollywood and its smiling corridors of power and criminality and cowardice. Stone's candid, sensitive observations are supremely funny--as they are probing of his own insecurities, blowhard behavior, drug use and the colossal mistakes made during his early years as a screenwriter. It's no small feat to survive working with Brian DePalma, Michael Cimino, Alan Parker, John Milius and other heavyweight alpha males. Plus, to still see scripts undergo gruesome changes Excellent guide-book to not just Hollywood and its smiling corridors of power and criminality and cowardice. Stone's candid, sensitive observations are supremely funny--as they are probing of his own insecurities, blowhard behavior, drug use and the colossal mistakes made during his early years as a screenwriter. It's no small feat to survive working with Brian DePalma, Michael Cimino, Alan Parker, John Milius and other heavyweight alpha males. Plus, to still see scripts undergo gruesome changes, bad casting calls, and to suffer outright deceit after winning an Academy award? The chapters devoted to directing "Salvador" and "Platoon" are harrowing but read like quality recovery literature. How any person could keep filming with so little and surmount the hazards of production to come out the other side in one piece is inspirational.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richard Guion

    I rate this book very highly because I’m a big film fan. I do not necessarily agree with Mr. Stone on every topic, so that isn’t a requirement to enjoy this book. This is a fascinating story of how Oliver Stone went from being a Yale dropout, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD, to becoming a screenwriter and eventually a director. Lots of inside gossip on how films like Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador and Platoon were made. Even the screenplays that didn’t make it, his Conan the Barbarian script w I rate this book very highly because I’m a big film fan. I do not necessarily agree with Mr. Stone on every topic, so that isn’t a requirement to enjoy this book. This is a fascinating story of how Oliver Stone went from being a Yale dropout, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD, to becoming a screenwriter and eventually a director. Lots of inside gossip on how films like Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador and Platoon were made. Even the screenplays that didn’t make it, his Conan the Barbarian script which shows his love of Robert E Howard’s fantasy world. He actually reads from that script in the audiobook, and I do think the audiobook is the way to go here, Stone does a number of impressions of people. Unfortunately the book stops at Platoon, but hopefully there will be a second book that covers the rest of his film career.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Scott Budman

    I'm always impressed when I read rock star bios, because they're so well written .. then I ask myself, why not? They're great writers of music and words, why not memoirs? The same can be said here for Oliver Stone. A writer and director of extreme controversy, likely taken less seriously than he deserves because of some of his actions and stands .. but, man, can he write. After all .. 'Platoon," "Born On The Fourth Of July," "Natural Born Killers," "Scarface," "Wall Street," etc etc. Of course he's I'm always impressed when I read rock star bios, because they're so well written .. then I ask myself, why not? They're great writers of music and words, why not memoirs? The same can be said here for Oliver Stone. A writer and director of extreme controversy, likely taken less seriously than he deserves because of some of his actions and stands .. but, man, can he write. After all .. 'Platoon," "Born On The Fourth Of July," "Natural Born Killers," "Scarface," "Wall Street," etc etc. Of course he's a great writer. And this book, after about 80 pages of background on his family, eventually takes off. It's a terrific read for anyone interested in movies, and how they're made. I won't give anything away, except to say that this books ends too soon. There's hopefully another one on the way with more recent movies, and more stories.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katee

    Probably more 3.5 but I'll give it the .5 because he surprised me. Actually an entertaining read. I have to say I'm not a fan of his movies, as female characters barely exist and the subject matter is uber-male. Damned if he doesn't talk nostalgically, even romantically (and admittedly with a Freudian slant) about his mom. And his wives. I'm so not a fan, that I didn't realize he wrote Scarface: the ultimate cartoonish man's man's movie (I work with cops - do you know how often this movie has be Probably more 3.5 but I'll give it the .5 because he surprised me. Actually an entertaining read. I have to say I'm not a fan of his movies, as female characters barely exist and the subject matter is uber-male. Damned if he doesn't talk nostalgically, even romantically (and admittedly with a Freudian slant) about his mom. And his wives. I'm so not a fan, that I didn't realize he wrote Scarface: the ultimate cartoonish man's man's movie (I work with cops - do you know how often this movie has been quoted to me?) But he didn't come across at all as I expected (but that nay be a credit to his writing ability too).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth Aspan

    Excellent insight into the man, the writer and director of some of my all-time favorite films. From my first screening of his debut film of importance Midnight Express, I was hooked on his raw style. I also served with the 1st Cavalry Division as a grunt in Vietnam and deeply identify with the demons that haunt him, as they do me to this day. I see it referred to on bumper stickers "It's a Nam Thing"! I thank Mr. Stone for his honesty and deep personal insights, and his openness into you talented Excellent insight into the man, the writer and director of some of my all-time favorite films. From my first screening of his debut film of importance Midnight Express, I was hooked on his raw style. I also served with the 1st Cavalry Division as a grunt in Vietnam and deeply identify with the demons that haunt him, as they do me to this day. I see it referred to on bumper stickers "It's a Nam Thing"! I thank Mr. Stone for his honesty and deep personal insights, and his openness into you talented amazing life.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erin Scott

    Wow, what a great look into a great film maker's life. I thoroughly enjoyed learning how such iconic movies as Platoon, and Wall Street got made but also the party atmosphere of Hollywood in the 70s. This book inspired me to rewatch these films with a newfound appreciation and I suspect the same will be true for you. I was surprised as I neared the end of the book that it ends right about 1990 and we're going to have to wait who knows how long until the second half comes out. I know I'll be snapp Wow, what a great look into a great film maker's life. I thoroughly enjoyed learning how such iconic movies as Platoon, and Wall Street got made but also the party atmosphere of Hollywood in the 70s. This book inspired me to rewatch these films with a newfound appreciation and I suspect the same will be true for you. I was surprised as I neared the end of the book that it ends right about 1990 and we're going to have to wait who knows how long until the second half comes out. I know I'll be snapping up the sequel as soon as it's out.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cristie Underwood

    Almost everyone has seen one of Oliver Stone's classic films. I had no idea how much turmoil was involved behind the scenes for the making of some of these. Mr. Stone wrote an interesting memoir that captured the years before he started making movies and volunteered for combat in the military to sweet success in the 1970s and 1980s of his movies. This was a time of change and Oliver perfectly captures the scene of this time as only an amazing storyteller could.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nigel Moore

    A great biography is hard to come by. Stories that cover Vietnam war even more so. Learning about Hollywood. The pain of divorce. And dealing with drug addiction. In just over three hundred pages Oliver Stone does it all. But then he wrote midnight express and scar face so why should I be surprised this book would read well? It only really covers his film making up to Platoon but I have a feeling another book will be on its way.

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