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‘The Oliver Stone Experience’ Book Illuminates Controversial Director’s Career

Jammed with lengthy and insightful Q&As with three-time Oscar-winner Oliver Stone, as well as news clippings, script pages, rare photos, and production memos, Matt Zoller Seitz’s 480-page book “The Oliver Stone Experience” is, like the filmmaker and his movies, obsessive and captivating.

Even longtime fans of the polarizing but undeniably brilliant director might not know the practical reason behind the innovative style of “JFK,” that “The Doors” was originally visualized as a Fellini movie, or why Stone was sued for incitement of violence in the wake of “Natural Born Killers.” Other highlights of the book, available Sept. 13 for $50, include treatments for unproduced films, storyboards, and scene breakdowns.

More than just a fawning career survey, Seitz’s probing questions challenge Stone on a number of important subjects, including the representation of women in his work. Seitz argues that prior to the 1993 drama “Heaven and Earth,” Stone’s female characters were either thinly-written supporting roles or altogether nonexistent. The director, of course, disagrees. Their intellectual sparring over the issue forms one of the book’s most fascinating chapters.

Beginning with his childhood, and encompassing his combat duty in Vietnam, the book analyzes Stone’s films from an intensely psychological viewpoint. At times, this puts the author and subject amusingly at odds with each other. When Seitz examines the director’s early low-budget horror films “Seizure” and “The Hand” for autobiographical nuance, Stone sounds understandably skeptical.

Covering everything from Stone’s work-for-hire scripts on troubled films like “Eight Million Ways to Die” to his latest work “Snowden,” the book is sure to provide both fans and detractors with a wealth of new material to chew on.

(Pictured: Oliver Stone shooting 1979’s “Mad Man of Martinique”)

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