NEW YORK — Director Oliver Stone and his producing partner Dan Halsted will dissolve their Illusion Entertainment shingle, they announced. Stone, who just finished directing the gridiron ensemble drama “Any Given Sunday,” has decided to shed his role of producing films directed by others to concentrate on his own writing and directing efforts.
The company essentially will come to a halt when Illusion’s first-look deal with Mandalay Pictures and its financing arrangement with Franchise Pictures concludes during the summer. Both said the move was amicable and that they will continue to collaborate on projects that Stone might direct.
Halsted, who separately produced the Cannes-bound film “The Virgin Suicides” and the upcoming Wesley Snipes starrer “The Art of War,” is expected to open his own production company shortly, and will continue to shepherd the Illusion TV and feature projects he and Stone hatched together. “I now have the best of both worlds, a continuing relationship with Oliver and the ability to pursue other avenues,” Halsted said in a statement.
The inventory of active Illusion projects for TV and features numbers about 20 and includes several possible helming assignments for the two-time, Oscar-winning director. Those include “Valhalla,” the Michael Blake-scripted story of Gen. George Custer at New Line, which could be Stone’s next film; a Stone-penned adaptation of the Ayn Rand novel “The Fountainhead” at Warner Bros.; and a Kario Salem-scripted biopic of Martin Luther King Jr., also at Warners. Additionally, there is an untitled love story by Caspian Treadwell Owen involving a U.N. relief worker that’s set up at Mandalay.
Met at Disney
Stone met Halsted when the latter was an exec at Disney and Stone planned to direct “Evita” there. Stone left the project and Halsted ankled the executive suites to join him in 1995. Halsted became a producer of films that include “Any Given Sunday” (which wrapped second-unit just work days ago), “Nixon” and “U-Turn,” as well as the pics “Freeway” and “The Corruptor” and the PBS docu “Assassinated: The Last Days of Kennedy and King.” Stone said he got along with Halsted fine, but the stress of producing was taking its toll.
“Life has just gotten too hectic, and the price of producing was often too high,” Stone said. “I wasn’t trying to be overtly commercial, and tried to help a lot of first-time directors, which was something I wanted to do since NYU Film School because I remembered how hard it was to get a first film off the ground. We never had a major success, but we made some pictures I’m proud of.”
Stone felt that his high profile and the controversies associated with such films as “JFK” and “Natural Born Killers” often colored the media perception of projects he produced, such as “People vs. Larry Flynt.”
“I can recall reading negative criticism on that film that went out of its way to single me out,” Stone said. “After a while, you start getting the message.”
End of game
Stone sounded tired after just completing the signal calling on the John Logan-scripted gridiron drama for Warner Bros. with a cast that includes Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, Cameron Diaz, Lauren Holly and Jamie Foxx. The film’s expected to open sometime during this fall’s football season.
“It was a very hard 65-day shoot and left me feeling that football is tougher to shoot than war,” said Stone, who directed the battlefield dramas “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July.”
Stone will revive Ixtlan, the production company he formed in 1977, but only to shepherd his own directing vehicles.
“We’ll move forward the projects that are for me, but otherwise, I’m finished, I’m not producing anymore,” Stone said. “It’s overwhelming, the phone calls, the unsolicited manuscripts are never-ending, and I’d like to go back to writing.”
Asked his best memory as a producer, Stone said one indelible moment came during filming of the riot scene for “Natural Born Killers,” which got out of hand and had the filmmaker and crew fearing for their safety. “It was in danger of becoming a full-scale riot in Joliet, but I found I had the support of the leader of the biggest black gang,” Stone said. “It turned out that the guy, who was about 350 pounds, loved ‘South Central,’ a small movie I’d produced about a man paroled from jail who tries to save his son.”