Filmmakers of great calibre, ranging from the likes of Martin Scorsese to Quentin Tarantino, had grappled with the idea of making a biopic about one of the most influential rock bands of all time; The Doors. Ultimately, the task fell to Oliver Stone despite being initially rejected by the surviving band members. However, they finally managed to wrap their heads around the fact that Stone was going to direct their biopic after watching his 1986 war film Platoon.
There was one band member who remained opposed to the idea of Stone directing a biopic about them, even though he had always wanted a Doors biopic. That person was celebrated keyboardist Ray Manzarek, played in the film by Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan. Manzarek claimed: “The film comes from the entirely wrong philosophical base. The Doors were about idealism and the ’60s quest for freedom and brotherhood. But the film isn’t based on love. It’s based in madness and chaos.”
Stone’s biopic revolves around the central figure of Jim Morrison (played by Val Kilmer) instead of the band as a whole, focusing on the life and times of the counter-cultural icon. Manzarek denounced the approach and criticised Stone for not listening to his ideas even though the filmmaker tried to get his approval. According to Stone, the keyboardist did not want to listen to contrasting viewpoints and “thought he knew better than anybody else.”
After the film’s release, several historical inaccuracies were pointed out not just by fans but by the band members themselves. According to the members, the filmmaker deliberately focused on his own vision and ignored their consultations. The major point of disagreement was Stone’s depiction of Morrison as a sociopathic freak. “Jim with a bottle all the time. It was ridiculous,” Manzarek said. “It was not about Jim Morrison. It was about Jimbo Morrison, the drunk. God, where was the sensitive poet and the funny guy? The guy I knew was not on that screen.”
Contrary to the poor reception, MacLachlan insisted that he had fun while making the film even though he hated the muttonchops: “Just a wonderful experience – we got to be pretend rock stars. I learned all the songs; while I was travelling through Europe at the time as I was lugging around a keyboard.” Val Kilmer’s powerhouse performance was appreciated by critics as well, albeit the praise was for his rendition of Stone’s distorted vision of Morrison and not his fidelity to Morrison himself.
In a 2021 interview, Stone reflected: “I didn’t really have the connection to music that other people had. A lot of filmmakers study music. I didn’t. I just followed a god that I liked. You see, I heard him in Vietnam for the first time. I was doing LSD on R&R [rest and recuperation] — not in the field — but we were discovering LSD and realising you really had to pay attention. Morrison had done enough LSD to really understand it. It’s a powerful consciousness journey. I never stopped. I kept going in that direction with all kinds of drugs.”
See a clip, below.