For director Oliver Stone, “Platoon” would mark the beginning of the meatiest part of the director’s career. The Vietnam film, the first in a loose trilogy (followed by “Born On The Fourth Of July” and “Heaven & Earth“), made a star out of its young lead Charlie Sheen, and it went to the Oscars that with year with eight nominations, walking away with four wins including Best Picture and Best Director (not to mention that Stone’s other film that year, “Salvador,” also earned two nods). It would be Stone’s second Oscar (he won for writing “Midnight Express” in 1979) and it established the writer/director as a major voice. But as he tells it now, he nearly didn’t make the film.
In an interview with EW about the film’s 25th anniversary BluRay release, Stone reveals that a powerhouse acting and directing duo seriously considered making “Platoon” in the 1970s. “It was written in ’76 and was almost made then by Sidney Lumet and [Al] Pacino. Then there was a period in ’84 when Michael Cimino was going to produce it and Emilio Estevez was going to play the role, actually. [Kevin] Costner passed on it, I believe, because his brother had been in Vietnam,” Stone said, confirming that Costner and Mickey Rourke were at one time in the running for Barnes, the role played by Tom Berenger.
So why didn’t it happen? “The ’76 version was just not considered upbeat enough. It was too realistic, which is why Sidney Lumet liked it. So who knows? And then I wrote ‘Midnight Express,’ which was my big breakthrough in Hollywood,” Stone explained. “And at that point, ‘Platoon’ was stashed away in a closet because no one wanted to make a realistic movie. And then you had films like ‘Apocalypse Now‘ and ‘The Deer Hunter.’ And the feeling was our moment had passed. So I was sad about it — really heartbroken. I forgot about the script for a while, thinking it would never get made. And then Michael Cimino [who also directed ‘The Deer Hunter’] said I should bring ‘Platoon’ back and he would produce it. This was in ’84. And I thought it was going to happen, but [producer] Dino DeLaurentiis f—ed us over, big time.”
How did he get fucked over? “He was only willing to go so far. The script was mine and he hadn’t paid for it, really. He considered it his, but he hadn’t paid. We had to threaten to go to court to get the movie back. It’s a miracle it eventually got made. It’s also a miracle that it was received well because it was supposed to be past due. We’d had ‘Rambo‘ and a bunch of other Vietnam movies. And the thinking was no one wanted another Vietnam movie.”
Well, while the pairing of Lumet and Pacino on a Vietnam movie is something we’ll have to leave to a parallel movie universe, everything certainly turned out well when Stone finally took the film. Check out the EW interview for more bits of info about the film including the apocalyptic draft of the script he wrote in 1969 that involves the underworld that he sent to Jim Morrison as well as other trivia, including the fact that Keanu Reeves turned down the movie because he thought it was too violent. Huh.