“And I think that I deserve to be treated... decent!”
BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
“I knew it was over as soon as
Pacino shaved off his moustache”
... said ex-Marine sergeant Ron Kovic of the first attempt to film his book of his Vietnam war that left him paralysed from the waist down in 1968
Oliver Stone was a grunt in the same period (winning the same Bronze Star and Purple Heart). He adapted Kovic's book before directing his second film, The Hand, 1981. “A very defeating experience,” he said, “over a year with a series of directors. It was a really good script. William Friedkin started rehearsing it with Al. I saw all the roles played. Al played it as Richard III in a wheelchair.
“Extremely difficult to have Al look a teenager at 37 but... it was really happening. Then, in 1978, the money fell out. It soured me on the possibility of doing something serious in Hollywood.” (He achieved that with the movie of his Vietnam, Platoon, 1986).
“That was a go project,” said Al. “Billy Friedkin and Oliver Stone wrote a terrific screenplay but Billy couldn't do it for some reason. Apparently, there was a studio that wouldn't let him out of a commitment. So suddenly, Friedkin is out of the picture - now what? I wasn't going to make that movie”... costing his producer (and former manager) Martin Bregman more than a $1m in development fees. “Tired of playing nursemaid to gifted but insecure actors,” Bregman cut the cord and Pacino was set adrift.
“Pacino is a schmuck,” said Oliver Stone.
“His career went into the toilet.”
Choosing drek like Friedkin's execrable Cruising , 1980, began a nine-year trough until Bregman and Pacino reunited for, ironically, Stone's scenario of an updated Scarface - and Bregman eventually got his man a long delayed Oscar with another re-make, Scent of a Woman , 1992.
Pacino refused all Vietnam war films. Not even for the great (unsung) Filipino Cirio Santiago, who made nine 'Nam movies back-to-back in the 1980-90s. “ Nobody has ever done as many Vietnam movies as good as that ,” said his #1 fan, Quentin Tarantino. “ They're like the great, low-budget WWII movies of the '50s... not about explosions; they're all about the human drama. ”
The success and four Oscars for Platoon and Wall Street allowed Stone to shoot whatever, wherever, whenever. He decided upon Kovic's story as the second stanza of a planned 'Nam trilogy (completed with Heaven and Earth , 1993).
Stone sensed that Tom Cruise was the best Kovic - and not just because he was born on July 3. “I knew there was a darkness in him. Tom had a hard childhood [divorce, dyslexia] and there were emotional problems there. I felt that Ron and I could tap into that and help him bring it out.”
Wary about the gung-ho Top Gun, Kovic preferred to meet CharlieSheen - revelation of the two Stone hits. Sheen felt the rolewas his after Platoon became Stone’s first directing Oscar. “He said we were going to have a relationship like Scorsese and De Niro,” Charlie told Playboy in 2001. “He said Al Pacino wanted to do the movie, De Niro wanted to - everybody wanted to.And:I'm going to give you this movie.”
Kovic alsp met two other Stone ideas: Nicolas Cage and... Sean Penn, whotookthe’Namrouteinanother Pacino-rejection, Casualties of War, 1989.
The writer-director held firm; Stone and Cruise won the day. Sheen heard he was out from his brother Emilio Estevez, with not even a phone call from, Stone
On Oscarnight, Stonecollected his second awardfordirectingin three years.
To make up for no Oscar, Cruise had
a gift from Kovic - his Bronze Star.