Platoon: Stone's Battle to Make the Vietnam Movie
Oliver Stone spent eleven difficult years getting his combat movie financed. Stone first wrote the script for “Platoon” script in 1975, but the country was not ready to deal with the issues of the war.
Producer Arnon Kopelson pitched “Platoon” to all the major studios only to be rejected. They all argued about the unknown cast, “Who ever heard of Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen” Besides, a critical movie about Vietnam was deemed a bummer in the conservative 1980s.
Undeterred, Koppelson cobbled together $6.5 million (an extremely low budget for such a picture) from overseas and home-video sources. Produced independently by the entrepreneurial company Hemdale, the icture was released through United Artists.
The rest is history: “Platoon” went on to win the 1986 Best Picture, Director, and other Oscars and became a must-see film, grossing way over $100 million.
Considering the “Rambo” mentality of the early 1980s, it's possible that if “Platoon” had been made a few years earlier, it might not have been in touch with the times. However, by 1986, most American moviegoers were getting tired of the simplistic comic war histrionics in Sylvester Stallone's Rambo (and other) movies, which were quintessential products of Reagan's right-wing administration. The public seemed ready to revisit and analyze the Vietnam War as the more complex, painful, and morally ambiguous experience that it was.
Whether Stone made this movie to exorcise personal demons is relevant to him as an individual. At the time, Stone said that, “'Platoon' “explores the everyday realities of what it was like to be a nineteen-year-old boy in the bush for the first time.”
Nonetheless, the film's significance goes way beyond personal therapy and exorcising demons. Platoon began a cycle of more realistic movies about Vietnam, including “Hmaburger Hill” and Stone's 1989 feature, “Born on the Fourth of July,” with Tom Cruise as the paraplegic vet and anti-war protester Ron Kovic.
Released in December 1986, just as President Reagan's popularity began to decline, the film challenged the collective consciousness and ambivalent feelings toward the War and its veterans. Looking back, “Platoon” was to the Vietnam War what “A Walk in the Sun” was to World War II: the film that most vividly captures the experience of common fighting man.
Twenty years ago, “Platoon” was rejected by the Cannes Film Festival as a competition entry. This year, artistic director Thierry Fremaux, in an effort to “restore justice,” has decided to screen the film as a special event at the Palais, commemorating its twentieth aniversary.
Oliver Stone would also show in Cannes footage of his upcoming 9/11 drama, “World Trade Center,” scheduled for release in August.
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