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Writer-director Oliver Stone is the son of Louis Stone, a well-known stockbroker who worked on Wall Street for 50 years. "The main motivation to make Wall Street was my father," Stone revealed. "He took me to the movies, and he would bemoan the lack of a good business movie... He always said there were no good business movies, because the businessman was always the villain."
"My dad was a very strong believer in Republican principles," said Stone. "He hated Roosevelt all his life. He really raised me with the hatred of Communists, so I very much saw the Vietnam War in that context, that it was us against the Commies."
"My father believed that America's business brought peace to the world and built industry through science and research, and that capital is needed for that. But this idea seems to have been perverted to a large degree. The Wall Street that my father worked in, the one I grew up around, is wholly different from that of today. There were no computers, they didn't trade in such volume, and there were no fixed commissions."
"I would never have cut the mustard on Wall Street," admitted the director. "I did poorly in economics - I got a C, and my mathematics were suspect. I lost on every stock I ever invested in... I began to resent money as the criterion by which to judge all things, and there grew to be a raging battle between my father and me about it. I found ways to throw away everything I had, which pissed my father off. 'Going into movies is crazy,' he would say. 'You aren't going to make a dime.'"
"He thought I was a bum," said Stone. "When somebody keeps saying it, you begin to think, 'Maybe I am.' Severe doubts. 'What's my purpose in life? What's my meaning? What was I put on this planet for? Maybe I should have been killed in Vietnam.' Although in a sort of paradoxical way, Vietnam did keep me optimistic. I did try to keep that faith, that I had made it out of there and I had to try to do something with my life."
"When I came back from Vietnam, I didn't run into hostility, any you-killed-babies accusations," Stone recalled. "I ran into indifference. Everyone was out making a buck. The guys I went to school with were making a bundle. What was Vietnam to them - five minutes on the news at night? I associated business with a get-rich-quick mentality, and it was not for me. I thought, 'People are dying over there so you guys can get rich.' It took me a while to see that, especially since my dad was in business."
After years of struggling with their conflicting principles, father and son finally made peace. "I remember one conversation we had, right before he died," Stone revealed. "He said, 'You'll do all right. There'll always be a demand for great stories and great storytellers.' So finally he forgave me for going into the film business."
By 1987, two years after his father's death, Stone said he had ''mellowed'' and gained more sympathy for his father's viewpoint. In many respects, Wall Street was made as a fulfillment of his father's wishes. "I always wanted to do a business movie," said Stone. "My father used to take me to movies and would often say, 'Why do they make the businessman such a caricature?' Then he'd explain to me what business is. The business of America, as Calvin Coolidge said, is business. He made me aware of what serious business is."
Even so, Oliver Stone wasn't sure he could achieve his father's lofty standard and make an "intelligent" business movie. "When I was working on Wall Street, I felt my dad was sort of around in a ghostlike form, watching over me and laughing, because here is the idiot son who doesn't know anything about the stock market, who can barely add and subtract, doing a film with the grandiose title Wall Street."
Watch the DVD-enhanced version of Wall Street on May 4. For a complete schedule of this movie on AMC, click here.
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Paul Attanasio, "The Long Inner War of Oliver Stone," Washington Post, 1/11/87
Richard Corliss, "Platoon," Time, 1/26/87
"Stone and Pressman Sked April Start on Wall Street," Variety, 2/2/87
Guy D. Garcia, "In the Trenches of Wall Street," Time, 7/20/87
Steven Rattner, "From Vietnam to Wall Street," New York Times, 8/30/87
Peter Biskind, "Stone Raids Wall Street," Premiere, 12/87
"Playboy Interview: Oliver Stone," Playboy, 2/88
Marcia Pally, "Oliver Stone," Penthouse, 4/90
Telis Demos, "Oliver Stone: Life after Wall Street," Fortune, 9/21/07
Louis R. Carlozo, "Stone Seeks Greatness for Alexander," Chicago Tribune, 9/25/07