“Natural Born Killers” arrived in multiplexes in 1994 like a molotov cocktail. Despite being dropped by Warner Bros. into the late-August graveyard of release dates, Oliver Stone’s serial-killer satire ended up at number one at the U.S. box office, and has remained a cult favorite since debuting 25 years ago.
As part of Los Angeles’ Beyond Fest, the film will screen in 35mm, in its unrated version, Tuesday night, with director Oliver Stone in attendance at the Egyptian Theatre. In a recent telephone interview with IndieWire, the notoriously prickly director insisted on keeping the Q&A on topic with “Natural Born Killers.” With regards to his upcoming Hollywood memoir slated for 2020, ill-received comments about anti-gay propaganda in Putin’s Russia, or Stone’s relationship to Putin as evinced by his 2017 documentary “The Putin Interviews”: Stone’s answer? “I don’t want to talk about that.”
Okay, then. Shocking to this day in its lurid violence and evisceration of the media’s obsession with murder and death, “Natural Born Killers” in many ways presaged the wave of true crime and serial-killer stories on our screens and in our earbuds today. Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis play psychopathic murderers on a vicious killing spree who become irresponsibly glorified by fetishistic media coverage. Sound familiar? The following year after the film’s release, the O.J. Simpson trial came to dominate the culture as no media circus ever had before.
“In 1990, I felt the media landscape was really changing, especially the coverage of violence,” Stone said. “It always existed but it became more geared towards profit when the O.J. Simpson trial happened. I'd never seen anything like it. Growing up, I'd seen a lot of sensationalism. We have a sensation-daily world, but it's bigger than ever, and television made it so. The O.J. trial was covered to the exclusion of almost all news. It was wall to wall. I don't think television ever made more money in revenue, and I don't think they ever went back. It’s been that more or less since then, [though news coverage] moved out of the field of murder and into politics as entertainment.”
Amid accusations of romanticizing criminality, and giving a voice to mentally ill protagonists from damaged backgrounds, “Natural Born Killers,” it’s been said, stoked a number of copycat crimes following its release. In March 1995, teen lovers Ben Darras and Sarah Edmondson went on a killing spree throughout Middle America, and had prepared for their trip by dropping LSD and watching “Natural Born Killers” on a loop.
Stone insists to this day, however, that he did not intend the film as a celebration of violence. “Its violence was satiric. I had a history of making films with realistic violence, and I thought it was clearly not literal, but metaphoric, over-the-top, not even close to real,” said Stone of the hallucinatory film whose violent set-pieces are indeed too outrageous and deranged to be taken literally. “Rodney Dangerfield drowns in a fish tank!”
Revisiting “Natural Born Killers” undoubtedly brings to mind a certain controversial movie now in theaters that everybody has an opinion about. But as of the time of this interview, Stone hadn’t seen “Joker.”
“It sounds interesting… like maybe it's going to be about an orange-colored president,” Stone said. “We're living in the age of the Joker. In terms of sensationalism and violence, I imagine that it treads on those themes [of ‘Natural Born Killers’].”
Stone also said he doesn’t watch shows like “Mindhunter” or true-crime series, but acknowledges that the myth of the antihero continues to own the output of what we’re seeing on film and television. “You see it everywhere. I'm not saying that's what I want to see. But the future is murder,” he said. “Natural Born Killers” ends with the Leonard Cohen song “The Future,” where the folk singer/songwriter echoes that very claim.
Melding multiple styles, from the docudrama to the sitcom, “Natural Born Killers” was ambitious and difficult to get made — and not to mention cast, as most actors didn’t want to go near it.
“It does in some way predict the violence that has come down on our century, the violence in the air and the violence on American television. [Look at] the cutting of commercials — the style has devolved to become busier and busier, more sensational. We did that on purpose,” Stone said, referring to the film’s frenzied editing technique.
Regarding getting the film off the ground, “I had problems, believe me. We barely got it made to Warner Brothers,” Stone said, which is the studio that distributed his Kennedy biopic “JFK” 1991 and third anti-Vietnam film “Heaven & Earth” 1993. “I wanted to make ‘Natural Born Killers,’ and they did not. They were worried about the violence. They gave me a list of actors and they were all impossible to get into the movie because they’d all turned it down.” But finally, Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis signed onto the film, and Stone and his crew went off to make it in New Mexico, Arizona, Indiana, and Illinois.
Another person reportedly unhappy with the movie? Quentin Tarantino, who had written the original script, titled “Mickey and Mallory.” The script was heavily revised by Stone, along with screenwriter David Veloz, and associate producer Richard Rutowski, with Tarantino ending up with a story credit.
“He wrote the original script, and we bought it. It was all done legally. A lot of money was paid. His opinion, yeah he didn't care for it, but I don't know if he ever saw it. He went around and said that and I don't think it was the right thing to do. But that was one of my many problems. We did well in spite of it all,” Stone said.
The 73-year-old director affirms that “Natural Born Killers” still holds up as “original and strange,” and even prophetic.
“It was intended to poke fun at the madness of our system,” he said. “American life is lived on television. In this climate, these fucking ridiculous shows, people divest their lives away in pursuit of money, in pursuit of love. People don't have a life. They have a fake life. Reality TV is fake. It's acting. What's real? How do I know.”
Oliver Stone has responded to comments he made in an interview with Vladimir Putin published as a transcript by the Kremlin earlier this week. In that interview, the “Platoon” director expressed support for Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law. The law, which Putin signed in June 2013, makes the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors an offense punishable by fines.
The two men were talking to promote “Revealing Ukraine,” a new documentary executive produced by Stone and directed by Igor Lopatonok that includes interviews with Putin - Stone had previously directed the four-hour Showtime series “The Putin Interviews” that aired in 2017. The Oscar-winner had previously produced Lopatonok’s 2016 documentary “Ukraine on Fire.”
“I don't know what is going on with the American culture,” Stone told Putin. “It's very strange right now. So much of the argument, so much of the thinking, so much of the newspaper, television commentaries about gender, people identify themselves, and social media, this and that, I'm male, I'm female, I'm transgender, I'm cisgender. It goes on forever, and there is a big fight about who is who.”
Putin responded by saying the younger generation “lives too well” and has “nothing to think about,” to which Stone said, “Yeah, but it's not a healthy culture.”
The Russian leader explained, “We have a law banning [gay] propaganda among minors.”
Stone responded, “Yes, that's the one I'm talking about. It seems like maybe that's a sensible law.”
Putin continued, “It is aimed at allowing people to reach maturity and then decide who they are and how they want to live. There are no restrictions at all after this.”
Though there’s no way to verify the accuracy of the transcript published by the Kremlin directly, Stone isn’t denying what he’s quoted as saying. He posted a statement to his Facebook page. The director denied that he or Putin are “anti-gay/LGBTQ” and directed anyone angry with his comments to watch his 2004 historical drama “Alexander.”
“As to gay/LGBTQ beliefs in Russia, again much misunderstood,” Stone wrote on Facebook. “Mr. Putin made himself clear in ‘The Putin Interviews’ – he's not anti-gay/LGBTQ. Nor am I. Have another look at ‘Alexander,’ for which we took a beating in 2004. Beyond the Hephaestion story in the sexuality department, I prominently featured Alexander's love for the Persian eunuch Bagoas, certainly an example of a third sex and emblematic of Alexander's world vision, which I much admired. Do not bring American expectations to Russian life any more than you expect Iran, Korea, Venezuela, or China to follow our political or social demands.”
Stone and Putin have been friends for several years. In 2017, Stone sat down for a series of interviews with Putin that turned into the four-part Showtime docu-series “The Putin Interviews.” The two men were back together for Stone’s latest project, “Revealing Ukraine.” The Kremlin transcript between Stone and Putin has also generated headlines for a moment where the film director asks the Russian leader to be his daughter’s godfather. Stone says this bit was also taken out of context.
Stone’s representatives have not responded to IndieWire’s multiple requests for comment.
In a recent interview published on the Kremlin's website Putin also defended Russia's law "against gay propaganda among minors."
Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to be his daughter's godfather according to transcripts of a recent interview between the two men published on the Kremlin's website.
Stone made the suggestion after Putin said that in the Orthodox Christian tradition, one cannot refuse if asked to be someone's godfather.
Responding to Stone's request, Putin asked if the director's daughter, who he said is 22 years old, was religious. He said he got a confirmation that she has been brought up in the Christian tradition.
Putin made no further comment, which local observers took to mean the president had accepted. The Kremlin rarely comments on Putin's private life and any official confirmation that he will be Stone's daughter's godfather is unlikely.
In the same interview, Putin said that he has several godchildren, but no names, except for Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk's daughter, Darya, born and baptized in 2004, were mentioned.
Commenting on Russia's law banning "gay propaganda" among minors, which Stone said was "reasonable," Putin said: "It aims to give people an opportunity to reach adulthood and then make a decision about who they are and how they want to live. After that, we have no restrictions."The interview was conducted for a new documentary on Ukraine Stone is executive producing.
Stone has long relationship with Putin, and the two men have praised each other in the past. Two years ago, commenting on Stone's then just released documentary The Putin Interviews, the Russian president called him "an unusual and very profound person and a very balanced and comfortable interlocutor."
Stone previously accused Western media of portraying a lopsided picture of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine back in 2014.
In 1991, Oliver Stone crafted a psychedelic and powerful musical portrait that brilliantly captured the furious energy of the '60s and the myth of The Doors' iconic front man, Jim Morrison - the man whose music shaped an era. Two decades later, Lionsgate presents a stunning new 4K restoration - The Doors: The Final Cut - supervised by Oliver Stone and brought to life with Dolby Vision® and Dolby Atmos®, which will take audiences back in time, into the world and sound of the psychedelic '60s when the film arrives on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Digital 4K Ultra HD on July 23. Relive Val Kilmer's hypnotic performance as the legendary Jim Morrison, alongside stellar performances from Meg Ryan, Kevin Dillon, and Kyle MacLachlan, who tell the story of The Doors' humble beginnings in Los Angeles to the of their popularity.
"This brand-new 4K restoration of The Doors in Dolby Atmos® will provide far greater overall clarity and dimension for the audience. During the many concert sequences, the sound now fills the auditorium above the audience, behind it, and all points in between. I wanted the film to be as immersive as possible to a real '60s Doors experience," said director Oliver Stone. "Additionally, I've made one cut of three minutes to a scene I thought was superfluous to the ending, which helps close out the film in a more powerful way."
Remastered from the original negative that was scanned in 4K 16-bit on ARRISCAN at FotoKem US, the restoration was managed by L'Immagine Ritrovata in Italy with the close support of Oliver Stone who oversaw the color grading. The 4K release was re-mastered using Dolby Vision® HDR and Dolby Atmos® technologies for an unprecedented immersive experience. When compared to a standard picture, Dolby Vision can deliver spectacular colors never before seen on a screen, highlights that are up to 40 times brighter, and blacks that are 10 times darker. Dolby Atmos transports you from the ordinary to the extraordinary through breathtaking moving audio that flows all around you. When listening to The Doors perform throughout the film, Dolby Atmos will allow you to hear incredible clarity with every sound and greater spatial separation of instruments, vocals, and harmonies. The Dolby Atmos® mix was created at Formosa Group under the supervision of Dolby and the original sound editors of the film: Wylie Stateman and Lon Bender. This new mix will offer audiences a unique, immersive experience of the amazing film soundtrack, which includes over twenty-five songs from The Doors back catalogue.
Available for the first time in this absolutely stunning format, The Doors: The Final Cut 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Digital 4K Ultra HD will feature brand-new artwork, a brand-new interview with Oliver Stone and sound engineer Lon Bender, and will be available for the suggested retail price of $22.99.
The Doors 4K Ultra HD / 4K Digital UHD Special Features:• Oliver Stone Audio Commentary• NEW: Oliver Stone's Interview• NEW: Sound Engineer Lon Bender's Interview
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