Stone Keeps Rolling; MADE FOR MEN

Article excerpt

o LIVER Stone is nearing an age when you might think he ought to be easing himself into a comfy old rocking chair to sit beside a roaring fire, drifting towards a quieter life.

But think again. Because there is still plenty of fire in the belly of this 63-year-old Oscar-winning movie maker, who first made his mark back in 1986 with Salvador.

Since then, he's been at the centre of controversial cinema with political hot potato movies such as JFK, about the assassination of Kennedy, and Nixon, in which Anthony Hopkins played the disgraced president. More recent efforts include W. - a biting satire about former US president George W. Bush.

Now with an impressive list of screen credits and awards behind him, New York-born Stone shows no signs of taking things easier or adopting a less contentious approach to movie making.

It's as though, 16 years on from Natural Born Killers - which remains his most notorious movie - he still enjoys stirring things up.

Significantly, he does so with the vigour of a man 20 years his junior.

When we meet in London, Stone, dressed in a open-neck striped shirt, jeans and a blue jacket and sporting a newly grown moustache, is definitely on a roll.

He's promoting his latest establishment-knocking film, South Of The Border, beating the drum for his return to the ethos that 'greed is good' with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and getting ready to embark on Oliver Stone's Secret History Of America, an epic 10-part TV series.

Stone hopes the history project will be something of genuine worth for the next generation.

"It is a legacy," he says of the series. "I looked at my children and I said they were getting the wrong history.

"Who am I? I don't have a historian's degree. But, you know what? I read a lot of history books and I see a lot of flaws in them. So why can't an amateur get in there and give it a shot? "If I can make a film that is interesting to a young person and is somewhat accurate - because the truth is an elusive thing. We don't all agree on what happened in history.

"But if I can make some semblance of an historical interpretation that holds the mark then it would be a good thing to leave behind."

He has already spent three years working on Oliver Stone's Secret History Of America and when I remark on his remarkable energy, Stone laughs and taps me on the knee as if he is chastising me for giving overdue praise. But there is no disputing that Oliver Stone is very passionate indeed about his movies. It seems unlikely that he might ever allow anything - including vitriolic criticism - deflect him from his desire to have his heart and soul up there on the big screen.

The latest example of this is his Latin American documentary, South Of The Border, which shows Stone in conversation with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, whom American TV has branded as much a threat as Osama bin Laden.

stone's film shows how Chavez and other South American leaders have improved their countries but the documentary has been attacked in the States and critics have described the film-maker's stance as being too one-sided.

"I knew it was going to be a hornets' nest," says Stone.

Throughout his career, Stone has taken on big issues and to delivered his vision of important periods of world history.

One of his ambitions was the making of sprawling epic, Alexander, in which Irish star Colin Farrell portrayed the soldier king Alexander The Great.

When the film was slaughtered by the critics, Stone's reaction was to re-edit it for a DVD edition and make the movie even longer.

In doing so, the movie maverick was hoping audiences would give Alexander a second chance.

He says he also hopes W. will be reassessed by those who gave it the thumbs-down.

"When I did W. I was attacked in some quarters for not making it strong enough or critical enough. …