Oliver Stone Is Walking Tall These Days

With the success of, the three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone no longer breaks out in cold sweats under pressure. These days he's walking tall.
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In 1978 while on a date with Oliver Stone, I had had too much wine and threw up on his feet. Oliver just had won his first Oscar and we were dining at Hollywood's "in" restaurant, Ma Maison. He was kind about it, and so was my friend and dinner guest Penelope Milford (who had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Coming Home). Everyone was kind, but I had humiliated myself. I just had filmed Looking for Mr. Goodbar and like the character I played in the movie, I was rapidly but unknowingly careening towards my alcoholic bottom. In 1980, I became completely sober and never threw up at a restaurant again. AHA! There is life after wine and cocaine.

That year Oliver and I dated for quite some time. I still remember his cold sweats and nervous mannerisms, scars from his years in Vietnam. That first Oscar was for best adapted screenplay for the harrowing film, Midnight Express. I have always been attracted to writers. Brains. And Oliver had the finest specimen thereof in the Hollywood that I knew. He never was boring. His mind and observations were keen (an understatement), as he has proven over the years. He spoke in almost a whisper but could quickly become angry. Even off camera I felt directed by him, and when he showed his temper, I would do what he wanted to please him. He was happy angry. Self-righteous indignation seemed to give him a rush.
Morley Safer years later on 60 MINUTES said, "I'm told that temper of yours can reduce people to tears. It's been said of you by those who love you that you do like to rattle people's cages."

"That's the only way to get to the truth," Oliver said. "You have to get past the veneer. You have to get to their soul. Their eyes."

"To what extent do you enjoy being the outlaw?" Safer asked

"I do. I don't. I'm a very conflicted individual," Oliver replied.

When Oliver began his career, he had a small office in the back of the Burbank Studio and was preparing to direct The Hand. Like any great talent Oliver paid his dues. He was not fawned over by Hollywood's brass, but within the inner sanctum word had it that he had great talent and one day would be a colossal success.

Producer Ed Pressman who nurtured such filmmakers as Barbet Schroeder, Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow and Terrence Malick, had discovered Oliver Stone and never lost faith in him. When I visited Oliver in his windowless office belonging to Pressman's company, Oliver would try to look busy and important, but I felt he was consumed with feelings of failure. For many years he had been peddling his script for Platoon. His posture, a continual slouch, showed near defeat.

For any understanding of Oliver it's crucial to know about his father and mother, Jacqueline Stone.

My ex- husband, artist Ron Mallory, remembers her fondly. "Jacqui Stone was the epitome of chic, like a French countess. I think she was from one of those great French families. Her secretary used to invite us to her cocktail parties. Remember? She was In St. Tropez every summer."

I reached out to mutual friend, columnist Couri Hay, who knew the mysterious Mrs. Stone. "Jacqueline Stone was one of the original Auntie Mame's of the world," he said. "One would see her in turbans, jewels, furs, couture gowns and it's easy to see where Oliver's sense of imagination emanated from. To have this theatrical and glamorous mother had a great deal of influence on Oliver's work especially when he started dealing with some of the excesses of the jet set."

I now remembered Jacqueline Stone, her throaty voice and how gentle and likable she was.

My friend continued, "This was no wishy washy comme ci comme ca blah personality. His mother loved dancing at Regine's and all the great parties because of her vivaciousness and gift for life and conversation. I can see as a director why actors would want to work with Oliver because he was brought up..." my friend paused then changed his original thought to say, "and with a great deal of love and attention."

Finally I had the opportunity to talk to Couri Hay's assistant, who also knew Jacqueline.

Somehow it doesn't go together. He's such a man's man. She's so high style. I would never have thought that he came from that sort of wealth. Not that she had it. But she acted like it. She could have been faking it. He's so American and she's so un-American. She's formidable, strong, very French, a working party person these days. She's been around the scene. Iron Butterfly is the impression I get. Typically conceited and yet so classy, self-assured, yet warm, witty. Very intimidating, there's sort of an aura about her. Very grand.

Since 1996 Oliver has been married to his third wife Sun Jun Jung from Korea -- quite different, I assume, from Jacqueline Stone who sought thrills to the disco beat.

In a Vanity Fair piece Stone talked about his unresolved anger towards his mother, who is barely mentioned in his work though at least two films are dedicated to his father. "I think there is certain anger with my Mom that has always been there. I'm bringing out the woman in me more and more in my work."

Lewis Stone, Oliver's father, died in 1985. Wealthy, Jewish and staunchly Republican, he was a New York stockbroker who wrote a Wall Street letter, The Stone Letter, which predicted the market's conditions and movements. Lewis remained emotionally distant while Oliver continually sought his approval. After attending prep school and Yale, Oliver credits his reading Joseph Conrad for his interest in an exotic lifestyle. However underneath this romantic façade lurked the deeper, more painful truth -- Oliver wanted to get away from his family.

When Oliver was fourteen his parents went through an ugly divorce. "After a lifetime of devotion to his Republican master, you'd think my father would have walked away a rich man. He walked away poor and when he died, he was still working," Oliver said."When you've had money and lost it, it's much worse than never having money at all," wrote Oliver for the iconic character of Gordon Gekko in the original Wall Street.

Over the years Oliver and I would see each other at parties and events and say a fond "hello."

One night a few weeks ago I turned on my TV, there he was. At 64 looking more handsome than ever and with every hair on his head -- no plugs or gray hairs in sight -- he was being interviewed by Joy Behar for his mega hit Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. He no longer had the nervous mannerisms of the past and while soft spoken he did not lose his cool when he said something to the effect that Behar must have talked about a given issue with her husband.

"I'm not married." Behar retorted. While Oliver had been trying to ingratiate himself with his interviewer, he'd been caught. Unlike the old Oliver of the past, though, he did not become angry or embarrassed. Instead he dismissed his faux pas with grace. I marveled at his calm demeanor, and thought with some satisfaction that finally he was not only a box office success, but also had undergone some serious emotional growth.

Whatever....With the success of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone no longer breaks out in cold sweats under pressure. These days he's walking tall.

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