Movie Flashback: 26 Years Ago Today Audiences Lost Their Innocence with This War Movie
12.19.12 by Chris
"Somebody once wrote: 'Hell is the impossibility of reason.' That's what this place feels like. Hell."
You can't talk about movies about the Vietnam War without talking about Oliver Stone's masterpiece, Platoon, which was released 26 years ago today.
Based on Stone's own experiences as a soldier in the war, the movie violently, but realistically, depicted what soldiers went through. After returning home from the war in 1968, Stone wrote a screenplay called Break about his experiences. Break never got produced but it served as the basis for Platoon. It took Stone nearly 18 years to make Platoon. Following the conclusion of the war, studios were not interested in Vietnam War movies, predicting they would be unpopular with audiences. But after The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now were released, Stone thought the tide had turn on the subject matter but studios still fought the project, thinking those movies were the pinnacle of the war and that there was no way Stone could top them. They were wrong.
The movie won the Oscar for Best Picture and Stone won for Best Director (the movie also won Best Sound and Best Film Editing). The movie would also go to earn an astounding $138 million (off of a tiny $6 million budget).
The cast included two unknowns that would go on to become household names — Johnny Depp and Charlie Sheen (Scrubs fans will recognize John C. McGinley as Sgt. O'Neill). Prior to filming, the cast went through a two-week intensive training course, which included digging foxholes and were subject to marches and nighttime simulated ambushes. Willem Dafoe said the training was critical to the movie. "By the time you got through the training and through the film, you had a relationship to the weapon," he said. "It wasn’t going to kill people, but you felt comfortable with it."
Casting: When he was writing the Break draft, Stone envisioned Jim Morrison from The Doors as playing the lead. Morrison never responded but shortly after the singer's death, Morrison's agent returned Stone his script, saying Morrison had it with him at the time of his death. Depp was originally considered for the role of Pvt. Chris Taylor but Stone thought he looked too young for the role. Sheen's role was originally offered to his brother Emilio Estevez but Estevez had to back out when the project got stalled because of financing.
Platoon would be the first of Stone's co-called Vietnam trilogy. He would go on to make Born on the Fourth of July with Tom Cruise and 1993's Heaven & Earth.
Where to watch: Platoon is available on DVD and Blu-ray and is streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Epix.