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Summary

In this powerful and evocative memoir, Oscar-winning director and screenwriter, Oliver Stone, takes us right to the heart of what it's like to make movies on the edge. 

In Chasing the Light he writes about his rarefied New York childhood, volunteering for combat and his struggles and triumphs making such films as Platoon, Midnight Express and Scarface.

Before the international success of Platoon in 1986, Oliver Stone had been wounded as an infantryman in Vietnam and spent years writing unproduced scripts while taking miscellaneous jobs and driving taxis in New York, finally venturing westward to Los Angeles and a new life. 

Stone, now 73, recounts those formative years with vivid details of the high and low moments: we sit at the table in meetings with Al Pacino over Stone's scripts for Scarface, Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July; relive the harrowing demon of cocaine addiction following the failure of his first feature, The Hand (starring Michael Caine); experience his risky on-the-ground research of Miami drug cartels for Scarface; and see his stormy relationship with The Deer Hunter director Michael Cimino. We also learn of the breathless hustles to finance the acclaimed and divisive Salvador; and witness tensions behind the scenes of his first Academy Award-winning film, Midnight Express.

The culmination of the book is the extraordinarily vivid recreation of filming Platoon in the depths of the Philippine jungle with Kevin Dillon, Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp et al, pushing himself, the crew and the young cast almost beyond breaking point.

Written fearlessly, with intense detail and colour, Chasing the Light is a true insider's story of Hollywood's years of upheaval in the 1970s and '80s, and Stone brings this period alive as only someone at the centre of the action truly can.

©2020 Oliver Stone (P)2020 Octopus Publishing Group

Critic reviews

"Oliver Stone's narrative, his life story about the heartbreaks, the near misses, and finally the triumphs is a Hollywood movie in itself." (Spike Lee)

"He provokes outrage. He stirs up controversy. He has no respect for safe places. Oliver Stone is larger than life. Chasing the Light says it all." (Sir Anthony Hopkins)

"Riveting." - (The New York Times)  

What listeners say about Chasing the Light

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Loved this book

I knew almost nothing of Oliver Stone’s life before listening to this but am so glad I downloaded on the recommendation of a friend. He writes with heart and soul and passion and is an inspiration for filmmakers (and no doubt others) to stick to their guns. Loved the read as well. Sent me scuttling back to Platoon ... and looking forward to watching Salvador for the first time. Hats off.

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Enthralling autobiography from a Hollywood great

I've followed Oliver Stone's career and his films ever since I saw Salvador and Platoon at the cinema in the mid '80s, and being deeply moved by both. This book - beautifully read by the man himself - covers his life and work up to the release of Platoon, including his voluntary service as an infantry grunt in Vietnam.

If you're a film buff who's interested in the process of film-making, you're in for a treat: Stone lifts the lid on how movies were made back then, when rules were laxer, the industry more free-wheeling, and when cinema wasn't just about banging out the next episode in some mega-franchise. On the way he takes us through the heartbreak and perils of a young writer and director finding his feet in Hollywood, and then the sudden rush into fame and critical recognition that came with Salvador and Platoon.

I do hope that Mr Stone is considering Volume 2; he teases us with mentions of The Doors, JFK, Wall Street, Born on the 4th of July, and Nixon (to mention but a few), and I for one would eagerly welcome his recollections of the making of those landmark films. Many thanks to Louis Theroux, from whose excellent 'Grounded' podcast interview with Stone I learned about this book.

Highly recommended.

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Beautifully written and read biography

A fascinating and remarkably well paced biography of Hollywood's most successful outsider filmmaker. The only problem with the book is that it stops. Really looking forward to the follow up.

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Enthralling

I wasn't sure about this one. Over 14 hours...? But I gave it a try as part of a BOGOF deal that Audible run now and again and I am pleased that I did. Narrated by Oliver Stone, it was an engaging, enthralling listen. Great insights into the movie industry, the US in the 70s and 80s, and the making of one of my favourite films of all time, Platoon. Also highlighted some background re Midnight Express which I was not aware of, and which left me disappointed (not in Stone).

Shame it finished in the 80s and hope he does a book with the next chapter. And I am going to work through all of his other movies gradually.

Highly recommended

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All I can say is F*****G great

Listening to Oliver Stone tell his story of his personal and professional ups and downs, in his reassuring voice, will give hope to anyone who's not quite sure who they are and what they want to be. The message? Keep chasing the light... We can all go from bum to hero (and back again!)

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  • NB
  • 30-03-21

A great story, brilliantly told

I loved this book. Way more than I ever expected, in fact. I knew a bit about Stone but his amazing life story is brilliantly told, and this audiobook is immeasurably enhanced by his excellent narration.

It begins with his parents meeting in France and runs to him finally achieving both critical and commercial success with Salvador and Platoon, and takes us on quite a ride. Buy it.

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Very interesting and enjoyable

I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book which I think was helped by the author also being the narrator. Fascinating insight into his experiences of film making and the ups and downs of a very influential and interesting writer and director.

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Compelling

I always thought of Oliver Stone as a director of "violent sexy films" and vaguely remembered Platoon film posters as disturbing when I was a child. I decided to buy this book after listening to an interview Louis Theroux did with Stone. I was struck by his thinking and an impression of great knowledge and breadth of understanding.
I really enjoyed this book. Well written and well read and, seemingly, very honest. It covers so many topics and areas of 20th century history that it is genuinely informative and engaging even if you don't know the man's work at all.
it drags slightly at times as it gets immersed in industry politics and name dropping but I would still highly recommend and am already planning to buy the hard copy for someone's birthday.

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So far so good

I didn’t realise at first this was just the first part of an autobiography but after a short time I was thrilled it was and I’m really looking forward to the second part. A fascinating tale about a true maverick and his experiences in Vietnam and then Hollywood - brilliantly narrated too.

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Excellent

Really interesting account of Oliver Stone's life up until the release of Platoon, as read - and well read - by himself on this audiobook. It feels right that this book ends with Platoon because through the chronological narrative you believe that his life had inevitably led to him to make this film at this time of his life. It was his destiny. Stone is an interesting and complicated character, borne by an interesting mother and father, and although Platoon does feel like the film he was born to make you do realise that things could have turned out much differently for him. Stone tells his story with plenty of interesting insights into Vietnam, Hollywood and family dynamics that are never dull and the book is definitely one of the best I've read on making movies. Will the second instalment be as good as this one? I don't know, but I do know I'll be buying it as soon as it's released.

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  • Anthony Lennon
  • 13-08-20

Excellent

They say, you shouldn't meet your heroes. Well, listening to this memoir is a meeting of sorts and it has been a very happy one.

Thank you Oliver, yet again...

1 person found this helpful