Watch Oliver Stone's Masterclass on His Process and the Role of Violence in His Films

oliver-stone Oliver Stone is a polarizing figure in cinema, to say the least. From Platoon to Wall Street and Natural Born Killers, the iconic director has developed a unique style, an indie spirit, and a controversial persona. During a masterclass at the Karlovy Vera International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, Stone answered questions about everything from editing to the violence in many of his films. Click below to take Stone's full masterclass!

Oliver Stone spoke for almost an hour, on topics ranging from why films about the Iraq War haven't fared as well at the box office as films about Vietnam to the violence in Brian De Palma's Scarface (there is a "residual integrity" to the character of Tony Montana.)

You can find the video below, but here are a few highlights from his masterclass:

On Writing:

I have my own script that I've been working on -- this is my 3rd go-around this year -- It takes me a few weeks of complete absorption -- sometimes more. And now I'm going to go on a 3rd pass, and I think this might be the one that gets me where I want to go. It's also the years: You mature and change over the years, you know a subject differently.

On Working Outside The System:

I've often had success working with scoundrels --  people who don't pay their bills -- because they're ballsy. They got guts. They take chances. In fact, 6 of my movies are in bankruptcy right now. But that's what happens when you deal with rascals. If you deal with studios you get more stability, but they own everything. And they don't pay you often what they're supposed to. So, I think making films is a very radical action if you can pull it off and get people to see it. It is still a pirate action. Now working for a studio, if they give you a lot of money, because then they're invested, you're just a cog in the wheel. But if you can pull off your kind of movie where you're signing it, you're the author --  that's significant.

On Violence:

In Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, you see the effect of violence. You see a single bullet tear through a man's chest and sever his spinal cord, and he's paralyzed for the rest of his life. That shows you the effect of violence on a life. I totally respect violence, I fear it, I don't want it to come into being. So when I went back to do Natural Born Killers, it was misunderstood, but I was doing it as a satire -- But people took it literally. They kill 55 people, but they're heroes because they exist inside a system in which the media, the jail system, and the police authorities were more corrupt than they are.

For more from Stone, check out his full masterclass below:

As someone who has worked both in and out of the Hollywood system, what lessons do you think he would have to teach an indie filmmaker? Let us know in the comments.

Link: The 5 Best Things Oliver Stone Said At His Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Master Class -- Indiewire

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Your Comment


"So when I went back to do Natural Born Killers, it was misunderstood, but I was doing it as a satire — But people took it literally"

I'm a huge fan of Stone's work, but Natural Born Killers played like a nihilistic ode to violence. I got the cultural critique as well, but it was far overshadowed by the casual brutality that was depicted as 1990's postmodern cool. At the time of release I was a fan of violent movies, but NBK was so over the top it repulsed me.

July 9, 2013 at 10:46AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Marc B

The biggest lesson he can show future filmmakers is to keep your mouth shut. Ever since his anti American comments and denying the holocaust his fire as burned out big time. Great filmmaker, yes. People going out of their way to work with him, No. The movies he made are entertaining but I don't need to see anymore of his work. He won't be missed in Hollywood, that's for sure.

July 9, 2013 at 4:05PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Anthony Marino

he didn't denied the holocaust, he said it receive more attention because sionists (political jews with an agenda) controls the media. He was saying that in the context that nazi also did bad shit over gipsys, people with deficience and what they did in russia, plus what japanese people (with support of nazis too) did in china.

well, his "anti-american" comments are understandable here in south america, where he has lots of fans and allies, since you know, the imperial side of USofA is a dark side of north america. USA supported TORTURE in south america (condor project, school of americas), just to give you a small fact.

Not that is a reason to hate north-american people, on contrary, people from USodA are now hostage of the imperial structure that fed america for years too, so in the end we all are victim of a system that uses patriotism to keep us hating those against the problems imperialism brings to the whole world.

In this case, with his problems (no man is perfect, as Salvador dali says, don't be afraid of perfection, you never reach it! :D) but with his problems, Oliver Stone is a filmmaker with a voice and an opinion, and that is what make strongs (good or bad) movies, I guess. :)

July 9, 2013 at 4:38PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

guto novo

The imperial side? We have free elections, freedom of speech, opportunity. America babysits the world dude. I wish we didn't but we do. Who else steps up? Not anyone South of me (no offense) we even give terrorist nations money, let in the poor from other countries in and they use our resources that many Americans paid for dearly in taxes. Don't mistake our kindness for weakness or ridicule our strength as a nation for protecting ourselves at any cost. Even if it means torture. The world needs America, ask anyone who gets our billions or protection. We don't believe in being a Socialist nation, we are independent and believe in the free enterprise system. Imperialism is laughable. Dictatorships are imperialist nations, not America.

July 9, 2013 at 7:05PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Anthony Marino

"The imperial side? We have free elections, freedom of speech, opportunity. "
I think you are thinking that being imperial is like being dictatorial, mate.
here a good start:

"Imperialism is laughable. Dictatorships are imperialist nations, not America."
Dictatorships are DICTATORIAL nations, not imperialist ones. South Arabia is a dictatorship, and is loved by United States of America. Why? because it suits the imperial agenda USofA has as foreign police for the world. ;)

But ok. you babysit the world, and in doing so also support dictatorships, but that's ok, since you can keep the democracy inside, why noy support dictators outside? these cards can be a good start for you to research more about the subject: ;)

as you may know, also the imperial side of your country teaches torture for military and police around the globe, since a long time (like in south america in the 70's). Also you use your power to dominate even the screening of movies in some foreign countries -that's called cultural imperialism, and believe, most theaters don't show north-american movies because they are the "best" or the most profitable most of the time. Usually the results of you babysitting the world is a mess. So, to call the imperialistic acts as babysitting is funny, like, babysitting is fucking the baby in a long term relationship? :D

"We don’t believe in being a Socialist nation, we are independent and believe in the free enterprise system.

I'm not here to go dual, socialism X capitalism... both are working for the same macro system, but you would not agree to. One thing is to believe in s system, what is to know the effect this system has on society and also ecology in fact.

Since it's a film site, a great movie by Noel Burch about the effects of this free enterprise system on the world, mostly the sea, is "THE FORGOTTEN SPACE" from 2010. You may not like it! :D

In the end, the great thing about filmmakers as Oliver Stone (liking him or not) is that his passion for his political view applied in his art let us share different opinions, of course, with you, being the right angry one! :P ;)

but the thing is, mr.babysitter of the world, I don't care about your political view, and I'm sorry the ordinary men is paying the price for this game. If you feel better defending it, go for it! I don't. But all of this is good because even disagreeing about the foreign policie of your country, I think we share a thing in common: love for cinema as art. At least I hope so. :)

July 9, 2013 at 7:32PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

guto novo

this is a great movie.

it may show that you, as a country, are NOT independent (in a global market today no country is independent anymore) and that the free enterprise system is not that good even inside your country.

"THE FORGOTTEN SPACE follows container cargo aboard ships, barges, trains and trucks, listening to workers, engineers, planners, politicians, and those marginalized by the global transport system. It visits displaced farmers and villagers in Holland and Belgium, underpaid truck drivers in Los Angeles, seafarers aboard mega-ships shuttling between Asia and Europe, and factory workers in China, whose low wages are the fragile key to the whole puzzle.

As the directors say, " the sea is still the crucial space of globalization. It is here that the confusion, the violence and the alienation of contemporary capitalism are most evident."

July 9, 2013 at 7:37PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

guto novo

I get your point and respect you taking the time for the thoughtful post, along with the way you present your "argument". I agree the world has gotten smaller and I don't agree with everything my country does, believes or supports. However, when I hear others say America is an imperialist nation I get taken back. Our doors and borders are open to the world (practically), we spend trillions trying to bring democracy to nations that can't support it. Who ever thinks America isnthe dark side probably hasn't been here. Most are friendly (as other countries has friendly people too) we have become the worlds whipping post. Again I can see how some think that but we can't be everything to everyone. We make mistakes (especially now under Obama, Bush didn't help either) so I see your point to a degree. I just wish for once someone would thank us and not look at the mistakes but look at the good. They certainly outweigh the bad here. So when I hear imperialism I believe parts of the world make us out that way because were always on the front line, either with aid, support or war. I'm against war for policing nations though not when Americas interest or people are in jeopardy. The truth is they need to get rid of the united nations. I guess because "we can" some in the world expect us to. That's why some look at us as an imperial empire. Truth is I wish we stay out of most of the conflicts were in right now, but if we do then they'll say America doesn't care. Most Americans believe, damned if we do or damned if we don't. Since the worlds become smaller and we share interest abroad, I guess we'll never make everyone happy. But I hope you're well and thanks for taking the time providing the info you did. :)

July 9, 2013 at 8:04PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Anthony Marino

That was awesome. I can listen to him for hours. I love Stone, he's got balls,conviction, and passion. He also fights the good fight when there are so few willing to fight. The MaiLai massacre movie will be awesome. I can't wait.

And to the nitwit Anthony Marino. Stone is not a holocaust denier you dick. this is what he said:

“Hitler was a Frankenstein but there was also a Dr. Frankenstein. German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support.”

He also seeks to put his atrocities in proportion: “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30million.”

Why such a focus on the Holocaust then? “The Jewish domination of the media,” he says. “There’s a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years.”

Don't know about you but that seems to be all truth. The Israeli lobby he's taikng about is Aipac and they have a great influence on American policy and they use the media to tear people apart if they disagree with Israeli policy.

July 9, 2013 at 4:21PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Sarah B.

"Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years.”

believe, not all jews are in favor of israHell, Sarah. I, as a religious one (ok I exchange it for chinese daoism :D) can't deny all the shit israhell did in middle east and the lobby in USA. For example, there is no excuse for ariel sharon send to demolish houses with women and kids inside in the 80's! and this is not an isolated case about israel policies over there, starting by disrespecting UN in their first expansion war.

just remembering, not all jews are sionists, and not all sionists are jews -lots of interests to keep israhell the way it is for sionists jews and non jews too.

July 9, 2013 at 4:44PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

guto novo

Sarah, there's a difference between invasion and genocide in motivation. It takes a certain level of evil to want erase a race off the face of the planet and THAT is why Holocaust gets the attention it does. Stone is an idiot for making those comments. Modern nazi are not after Russians, British or any of the Allies from WWII, they are after Jews and that is Hitler's legacy. It is something that people need to be reminded of constantly and if that falls into hand of Jewish lobby, well then so be it.

This is all coming from a Russian btw, where WWII is referred to as The Great Father's War and claimed lives of a whole generation.

July 9, 2013 at 4:46PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


25 -30 million dead russians dude. 25-30 million humans, dead, thats what Stone is talking about. If thats not an attempt at genocide I don't know what is.

July 9, 2013 at 7:13PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Sarah B.