William Oliver Stone known simply as Oliver Stone, is a three-time Academy Award-winning American film director and screenwriter. Stone was born in New York City. His father was Jewish and his mother a Roman Catholic. He was raised an Episcopalian as a compromise Stone attended The Hill School, Yale University and New York University. He attended Yale for one year before dropping out. He then taught English at the Free Pacific Institute in South Vietnam for six months and moving on to work as a merchant marine before returning to Yale, where he dropped out a second time.
A veteran of the Vietnam conflict, Stone served with the United States Army from April 1967 to November 1968. He specifically requested combat duty and was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division, and was wounded twice in action. His personal awards include the Bronze Star with “V” device for valor for “extraordinary acts of courage under fire”, and the Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster.
He has made three films about Vietnam—Platoon (1986), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), and Heaven & Earth (1993). He has called these films a trilogy, though they each deal with different aspects of the war. Platoon is a semi-autobiographical film about Stone’s experience in combat. Born on the Fourth of July is based on the autobiography of Ron Kovic. Heaven & Earth is a true story of a Vietnamese girl whose life is drastically affected by the war.
Stone has won three Academy Awards. His first “Oscar” was for Best Adapted Screenplay for Midnight Express (1978). He won Academy Awards for Directing Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, Other film screenplays he participated in are Conan the Barbarian (1982), Scarface (1983), Year of the Dragon (1985), 8 Million Ways to Die (1986) and Evita (1996). In addition, he has written or taken part in the writing of every film he has directed, except U-Turn (1997). The very first film that he directed professionally was the obscure horror picture Seizure (1974).
Oliver Stone’s films often deal with political matters and are sometimes critical of the US government. JFK, for instance, hypothesizes about many high-level government officials having a hand in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1991, he showed the film to Congress on Capitol Hill, which helped lead to passage of the Assassination Materials Disclosure Act of 1992. The film was widely criticized in the media as being a mixture of truth and fiction. Stone published an annotated version of the screenplay, in which he cites references for his claims. Similarly, he published an annotated version of his screenplay for the film Nixon, nominated for 4 Academy Awards, but which was also criticized for its portrayal of President Richard M. Nixon.
In 1999, Stone was arrested and pleaded guilty to drug possession and no contest to driving under the influence. He was ordered into a rehabilitation program. He was arrested again on the night of May 27, 2005 in Los Angeles for a small amount of marijuana possession.
Oliver Stone first smoked grass during the Vietnam War. “If it hadn’t been for marijuana and my black brothers in Vietnam,” said Stone in a recent interview “I don’t think I’d be the same person, I don’t think I’d be alive.” “That’s why I did the bunker scene in Platoon, the bit with Elias and the shotgun reefer,” added Stone. “Vietnamese grass is one of the most powerful, transforming herbs in the world. When I got high on that stuff, listening to Smokey, that’s when I began to understand that life is sacred, that life has great vibrancy, which, in my case, was a perception I couldn’t get out of.”