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(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Film

Oliver Stone explains how he was "too intellectual" to be a drug dealer

American film director, producer, and screenwriter, Oliver Stone has enjoyed quite a career, working on some of the most well-respected projects of the modern era. Boasting an extensive filmography, with his works drawing on a host of influences to create films that are both aesthetically pleasing and intellectually stimulating, Stone continued to push the boundaries of cinema.

Stone won the Academy Award for his screenplay for the 1978 prison drama Midnight Express, wrote the iconic 1983 remake of Scarface, directed the surreal 1994 thriller Natural Born Killers, and the most compelling account of the assassination of John F. Kennedy ever put to the silver screen, 1991’s JFK, which features Kevin Costner in one of his finest roles. 

These four films are only the tip of the iceberg. Elsewhere in Stone’s catalogue are Platoon, Wall Street, The Doors, and Savages, outlining just how dextrous his work really is. The director has lived an interesting life, and one that has seen him experience his parent’s divorce as an only child, fight in the Vietnam War with distinction, work in the Paris mercantile exchange at just 17 years old, and be taught by Martin Scorsese at university. 

The mention of just those four pivotal periods in Stone’s life gives us a succinct idea of why his filmography is so varied: he’s seen and done it all. However, there was another time in his life that was equally as significant and one that has affected the spirit of some of his films — his short time as a drug dealer…and a “too intellectual” one at that.

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When recently sitting down with The Talksthe auteur revealed all. Asked by the interviewer whether he’s ever “acted unethically” in his career, Stone responded openly and looked back on his time as a dealer. He recalled: “When I was young and had to make a living, I was briefly selling drugs out of an apartment in New York. The drug was ethylamine phencyclidine. It was what they called in those days a ‘speedball’. It was a combination-drug of downer-upper, where you go both ways. I sold it for a while but I couldn’t make big money, because it was so good you couldn’t do too much of it. It was like a psychedelic.” 

Explaining himself, Stone continued: “You can’t make money selling LSD because people don’t take that much. Whereas cocaine is where you can make money, or heroin. So I was too intellectual a drug dealer, but I met some interesting people. Call it a brief period of employment.”

Asked why he got into the game in the first place, Stone disclosed that it was because he really needed the money, and that during this time, he undertook a myriad of jobs, such as taxi driving, to keep himself above the water. 

He said: “I was in my mid-twenties and I really needed money. I needed money! I was driving a cab and I was doing all kinds of shit. I was trying to stay above the water level so that I could keep writing two screenplays a year with the hope of breaking through. I am not doing that anymore though. I even stopped smoking grass a few years ago.”

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