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12 Intense Facts About Platoon

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Before it won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1986, Platoon made waves simply by doing something new: showing the Vietnam War from the perspective of someone who fought in it. Oliver Stone was an infantryman for 14 months in 1967 and 1968, and he was determined to portray the experience accurately in what would be the first Vietnam film made by a Vietnam veteran. Coming 11 years after the official end of the war, Platoon opened a conversation between veterans and civilians that had previously been too painful to have. It’s also a fine piece of filmmaking. Here are a dozen facts to shed some light on it.

1. OLIVER STONE WAS SO TIRED ON THE SET THAT HE STARTED MAKING CRAZY ACCUSATIONS.

Stone has been described as difficult to work with even under the best of circumstances, and the grueling Platoon shoot—10 weeks in the miserable Philippine jungle—was in another category. He later recalled getting so sleep-deprived and paranoid that when he couldn’t find the footage from a particular scene, he accused his film editor, Claire Simpson, of hiding it. Simpson gently reassured him that no, she wasn’t deceiving him, and the reason he couldn’t find the footage was that he hadn’t shot it yet.

2. THEY USED IMPORTED DIRT.

Platoon was shot in the Philippines, which had the advantage of looking a lot like Vietnam without actually being in Vietnam. There was just one discrepancy: the Philippines lacked the red soil that Stone remembered from his days in ‘Nam. So dirt of the proper hue was trucked in for authenticity’s sake.

3. THAT SCENE WHERE EVERYBODY’S REALLY HIGH? EVERYBODY WAS REALLY HIGH.

Willem Dafoe said that to get into character for the sequence where the soldiers are lounging around the tent, smoking and drinking whatever they can get their hands on, he and the other actors got stoned ahead of time. They didn’t think their plan through very carefully, though. By the time they actually shot the scene, a few hours had passed, and everyone had come down. “They were just tired and useless,” Dafoe said.

4. THE SHOOT ALMOST GOT CANCELLED ON ACCOUNT OF REVOLUTION.

Sure, they thought. It’ll be easier to make a movie in the Philippines than in Vietnam, they thought. They would have been right if it weren’t for the fact that when they arrived, kleptocratic President Ferdinand Marcos was in the process of being tossed out of office. The country’s political instability threatened the production, but ended up only delaying it a week. Filming began two days after Marcos and his family vacated the premises. Stone said, “When the change came, we had to make new deals with the new military. You had to get a lot of permissions and bribe a new set of people.” 

5. IT WAS THE FIRST TIME JOHNNY DEPP HAD EVER BEEN OUT OF THE COUNTRY.

He’s a world traveler who lives in France a lot of the time now, but in early 1986, the 22-year-old Depp had never left the U.S.

6. IT TOOK MORE THAN A DECADE TO GET THE FILM PRODUCED.

Stone wrote a screenplay based on his experiences in Vietnam as soon as he got back from the war, in 1969. (He sent a copy of it to Jim Morrison, hoping the Doors frontman would star in it.) By 1976, that draft morphed into what he was then calling The Platoon. Stone couldn’t find anyone willing to make the movie, though. The war was still too fresh in people’s minds; it would be another few years before films like Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter addressed it. And after that, studios had another excuse not to make Platoon: why bother, when Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter had already covered it?

7. SIDNEY LUMET ALMOST MADE THE MOVIE WITH AL PACINO.

Back in 1976, when Stone was trying to get his screenplay produced, he almost found a taker in Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Network), who was going to cast Al Pacino in the Charlie Sheen role. 

8. IT CHANGED THE WAY HOLLYWOOD LOOKED AT WAR.

A much-decorated retired Marine named Dale Dye, who loved war movies but was disappointed by their failure to convey the mental and emotional realities of combat, offered Stone his services as an advisor. Dye had been turned down by other filmmakers, who felt the way Hollywood had been doing it—you hire a consultant to make sure the medals, guns, and uniforms are accurate, and you don’t worry about the less tangible details—seemed to be working just fine. (Dye said: “They had been making zillions of dollars making war films for decades, and here was some clown coming in to tell them they had a better mousetrap? Go away.”) But Dye’s vision matched Stone’s, and the psychological authenticity they created together was a major factor in Platoon’s success. For the first time, Vietnam veterans were seeing their experiences portrayed realistically. Dye has since become the foremost military consultant in Hollywood, advising (and occasionally acting in) everything from Saving Private Ryan to the Medal of Honor video games. 

9. THE CAST SPENT TWO WEEKS IN A SIMULATED BOOT CAMP.

One of Dye’s ideas was to put the actors through the closest thing to a real boot camp that he could without killing them. They spent two weeks as soldiers in the Philippine jungle, digging holes to live in, eating from ration cans, carrying real weight, and staying in character. There were no showers or toilets, and everyone had to rotate on night watch. “It’s usually around day two or day three [the actors] realize playtime is over and that this guy is serious,” he recalled

10. STONE WAS SO SURPRISED BY THE FILM’S SUCCESS THAT HE DROVE PAST THEATERS WHERE IT WAS PLAYING TO SEE FOR HIMSELF.

Though he’d been lauded as a screenwriter for Midnight Express and Scarface, Stone’s previous directorial efforts—The Hand (1981) and Salvador (1986, 10 months before Platoon)—had been flops. That Platoon, which he’d been trying to make for a decade and which seemed cursed, should be a hit caught him totally off-guard. Elizabeth Cox, his wife at the time, told an interviewer that when they’d drive around L.A., Stone would go out of his way to see it with his own eyes. “He’ll stand outside the theater, listen to remarks,” she said. “He’s amazed that people like it. He’s cute.” 

11. CHARLIE SHEEN ALMOST LOST THE LEAD ROLE TO HIS OWN BROTHER.

Sheen auditioned during one of Stone’s earlier, unsuccessful attempts to get the movie made, and didn’t impress him. The guy Stone really liked was Sheen’s older brother, Emilio Estevez. But financing fell through and the film was shelved. By the time Sheen auditioned again a few years later, he had grown into the role. “This time I knew in 10 minutes he was right,” said Stone. 

12. IT WAS BANNED IN VIETNAM (BUT PEOPLE SAW IT ANYWAY).

Unsurprisingly, the government didn’t care for the film’s unflattering portrayal of the Viet Cong, and wouldn’t let it play there. But in March 1988, the Vietnam News Agency reported that “tens of thousands” of people were watching it on video in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), without noting how the film had been obtained. It was the first American film about the Vietnam War to play in that city.

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11 Single Facts About Bridget Jones’s Diary
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While it's not officially a holiday movie, so much of the action in Bridget Jones's Diary happens around the most wonderful time of the year that the rom-com has become essential wintertime viewing for many movie fans. Based on Helen Fielding’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of a very single, and hopelessly romantic, working professional named Bridget (Renée Zellweger) who is determined to improve her love life. Enter two strapping gentlemen (Colin Firth and Hugh Grant) to vie for her heart. Get to know more about the timeless dramedy that’s been delighting audiences since 2001. Just as it is.

1. THE SOURCE NOVEL CAME ABOUT FROM AN ANONYMOUS COLUMN ABOUT SINGLE LIFE.

In the foreword of Bridget Jones’s Diary, author Helen Fielding wrote about how she came to conjure up the story: “The Independent asked me to write a column, as myself, about single life in London. Much as I needed the money, the idea of writing about myself in that way seemed hopelessly embarrassing and revealing. I offered to write an anonymous column instead, using an exaggerated, comic, fictional character. I assumed no one would read it, and it would be dropped after six weeks for being too silly.”

2. SEVERAL CHARACTERS ARE BASED ON PEOPLE IN HELEN FIELDING’S LIFE.


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These include Jude (Tracey MacLeod) and Shazzer (Sharon Maguire, also the film’s director). In a column for the Evening Standard, MacLeod described how she didn’t even realize she inspired part of her best friend’s story until Fielding’s book launch party. “At the launch party for the first Bridget book, I was cornered by a smug married friend, ‘So ... what's it like being Jude?’ she asked,” MacLeod writes. “I was outraged. Of course I wasn't Jude, with her self-help books and horrible boyfriend. My boyfriend wasn't anything like Vile Richard ... But as more people began to believe that Jude and Shazzer were thinly-veiled portraits of myself and Sharon, I secretly got to like the idea.”

3. TONI COLLETTE DECLINED THE LEAD, AND KATE WINSLET WAS CONSIDERED FOR IT.

Before Zellweger stole the show, Aussie Toni Collette and Brit Kate Winslet were up for the part. According to AMC, “Toni Collette declined the role because she was on Broadway starring in The Wild Party at the time, and Kate Winslet was considered but the producers decided she was too young.”

4. HUGH GRANT ONLY SIGNED ON WHEN RICHARD CURTIS WAS ANNOUNCED AS THE WRITER. 


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“The only reason [I was a hard sell] was because I didn't feel they had the script quite right for a long time,” Firth told Cinema.com. “And I kept saying, ‘It's not working. Just get Richard Curtis to come in and help rewrite it.’ Eventually they did, and as soon as Richard came on board, I signed on the dotted line. So that's all it was.”

5. RENÉE ZELLWEGER GAINED 17 POUNDS FOR THE PART.

Zellweger’s weight gain for the role had the media abuzz for a while. According to The Guardian, “In order to play the eponymous heroine in the film adaptation of Fielding's bestseller, the actress gained 17 pounds, consulting a dietitian and endocrinologist who devised a regime of three full meals a day, multiple snacks, and no exercise.”

6. ZELLWEGER WORKED AT PICADOR FOR THREE WEEKS.

Zellweger went full Method for her iconic role, and became a temporary employee of the Picador publishing house. “We came up with a plan: she would be Bridget Cavendish, Bridget for obvious reasons and Cavendish as she was to be passed off as the sister of Jonathan Cavendish, a friend of one of our company chairmen,” Picador publicist Camilla Elworthy told The Guardian. “That last bit at least is true, and no one was to know that Jonathan Cavendish was one of the film's producers.”

7. ZELLWEGER KEPT A PHOTO OF JIM CARREY ON HER DESK.


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While working at Picador, Zellweger kept a picture of Jim Carrey on her desk—which made her alter ego Bridget Cavendish seem like some sort of obsessed fan. “Under the name Bridget Cavendish, she answered phones, served coffee, and made photocopies—without being recognized by any of her co-workers, who offered career advice and wondered privately why she kept a photo of Jim Carrey (her then-boyfriend) on her desk,” noted Hollywood.com.

8. ZELLWEGER INVITED HER BOSS AT PICADOR TO BE AN EXTRA ON SET.

In Camilla Elworthy’s write-up for The Guardian, she noted how she became a part of the production. “Renée sent me a thank you letter and gift after she'd gone and I have seen her a few times since then," Elworthy wrote. "She invited me on to the film set one day. She informed me that I had to stick around and be an extra and made sure that I was put somewhere that I would be seen ... As a result, half my head can be seen for half a nano-second in the launch party scene.”

9. THE EPIC FIGHT SCENE BETWEEN GRANT AND COLIN FIRTH WASN’T CHOREOGRAPHED.

You can thank the two actors for the hilarity of the iconic scene. In a Vulture article about the greatest fight scenes in movie history, writer Denise Martin recalled the improvised spar, writing, “No stunt coordinators. No elaborate choreography. Just a perfectly realized wimp brawl between two upper-middle-class Englishmen coming to awkward fisticuffs in front of a Greek restaurant.”

10. FIELDING ASKED FRIEND SALMAN RUSHDIE TO CAMEO IN THE FILM.

Recalling how he came to be part of the film, famed novelist Salman Rushdie told Texas Monthly, “Helen Fielding, the author of the book, is an old pal of mine, and she asked if I’d come along and make a fool of myself, and I said, ‘Why not?’”

11. GRANT DIDN’T HEAR ZELLWEGER SPEAK IN HER AMERICAN ACCENT UNTIL THE FILM’S WRAP PARTY.

Zellweger was so engrossed with Bridget Jones that one of her leading love interests didn’t meet the real actress until the end of the shoot. “Not once did she stop speaking with that accent, until the wrap party,” Grant told Cinema.com, “when suddenly this weird ... Texan appeared. I wanted to call security, I didn't know who the f*ck she was!”

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15 Surprising Facts About Scarface
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Say hello to our little list. Here are a few facts to break out at your next screening of Scarface, Brian De Palma’s gangsters-and-cocaine classic, which arrived in theaters on this day in 1983.

1. IT WASN'T THE FIRST SCARFACE.

Brian De Palma's Scarface is a loose remake of the 1932 movie of the same name, which is also about the rise and fall of an American immigrant gangster. The producer of the 1983 version, Martin Bregman, saw the original on late night TV and thought the idea could be modernized—though it still pays respect to the original film. De Palma's flick is dedicated to the original film’s director, Howard Hawks, and screenwriter, Ben Hecht.

2. IT COULD HAVE BEEN A SIDNEY LUMET FILM.

At one point in the film's production, Sidney Lumet—the socially conscious director of such classics as Dog Day Afternoon and 12 Angry Men—was brought on as its director. "Sidney Lumet came up with the idea of what's happening today in Miami, and it inspired Bregman," Pacino told Empire Magazine. "He and Oliver Stone got together and produced a script that had a lot of energy and was very well written. Oliver Stone was writing about stuff that was touching on things that were going on in the world, he was in touch with that energy and that rage and that underbelly."

3. OLIVER STONE WASN'T INTERESTED IN WRITING THE SCRIPT, UNTIL LUMET GOT INVOLVED.


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Producer Bregman offered relative newcomer Oliver Stone a chance to overhaul the screenplay, but Stone—who was still reeling from the box office disappointment of his film, The Hand—wasn't interested. "I didn’t like the original movie that much," Stone told Creative Screenwriting. "It didn’t really hit me at all and I had no desire to make another Italian gangster picture because so many had been done so well, there would be no point to it. The origin of it, according to Marty Bregman, [was that] Al had seen the '30s version on television, he loved it and expressed to Marty as his long time mentor/partner that he’d like to do a role like that. So Marty presented it to me and I had no interest in doing a period piece."

But when Bregman contacted Stone again about the project later, his opinion changed. "Sidney Lumet had stepped into the deal," Stone said. "Sidney had a great idea to take the 1930s American prohibition gangster movie and make it into a modern immigrant gangster movie dealing with the same problems that we had then, that we’re prohibiting drugs instead of alcohol. There’s a prohibition against drugs that’s created the same criminal class as (prohibition of alcohol) created the Mafia. It was a remarkable idea."

4. UNFORTUNATELY, ACCORDING TO STONE, LUMET HATED HIS SCRIPT.

While the chance to work with Lumet was part of what lured Stone to the project, it was his script that ultimately led to the director's departure from the film. According to Stone: "Sidney Lumet hated my script. I don’t know if he’d say that in public himself, I sound like a petulant screenwriter saying that, I’d rather not say that word. Let me say that Sidney did not understand my script, whereas Bregman wanted to continue in that direction with Al."

5. STONE HAD FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE WITH THE SUBJECT MATTER.

In order to create the most accurate picture possible, Stone spent time in Florida and the Caribbean interviewing people on both sides of the law for research. "It got hairy," Stone admitted of the research process. "It gave me all this color. I wanted to do a sun-drenched, tropical Third World gangster, cigar, sexy Miami movie."

Unfortunately, while penning the screenplay, Stone was also dealing with his own cocaine habit, which gave him an insight into what the drug can do to users. Stone actually tried to kick his habit by leaving the country to complete the script so he could be far away from his access to the drug.

"I moved to Paris and got out of the cocaine world too because that was another problem for me," he said. "I was doing coke at the time, and I really regretted it. I got into a habit of it and I was an addictive personality. I did it, not to an extreme or to a place where I was as destructive as some people, but certainly to where I was going stale mentally. I moved out of L.A. with my wife at the time and moved back to France to try and get into another world and see the world differently. And I wrote the script totally f***ing cold sober."

6. BRIAN DE PALMA DIDN'T WANT TO AUDITION MICHELLE PFEIFFER.


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De Palma was hesitant to audition the relatively untested Pfeiffer because at the time she was best known for the box office bomb Grease 2. Glenn Close, Geena Davis, Carrie Fisher, Kelly McGillis, Sharon Stone and Sigourney Weaver were all considered for the role of Elvira, but Bregman pushed for Pfeiffer to audition and she got the part.

7. YES, THERE IS A LOT OF SWEARING.

According to the Family Media Guide, which monitors profanity, sexual content, and violence in movies, Scarface features 207 uses of the “F” word, which works out to about 1.21 F-bombs per minute. In 2014, Martin Scorsese more than doubled that with a record-setting 506 F-bombs thrown in The Wolf of Wall Street.

8. TONY MONTANA WAS NAMED FOR A FOOTBALL STAR.

Stone, who was a San Francisco 49ers fan, named the character of Tony Montana after Joe Montana, his favorite football player.

9. TONY IS ONLY REFERRED TO AS "SCARFACE" ONCE, AND IT'S IN SPANISH.

Hector, the Colombian gangster who threatens Tony with the chainsaw, refers to Tony as “cara cicatriz,” meaning “scar face” in Spanish.

That chainsaw scene, by the way, was based on a real incident. To research the movie, Stone embedded himself with Miami law enforcement and based the infamous chainsaw sequence on a gangland story he heard from the Miami-Dade County police.

10. VERY LITTLE OF THE FILM WAS ACTUALLY SHOT IN MIAMI.

The film was originally going to be shot entirely on location in Miami, but protests by the local Cuban-American community forced the movie to leave Miami two weeks into production. Besides footage from those two weeks, the rest of the movie was shot in Los Angeles, New York, and Santa Barbara.

11. ALL THAT "COCAINE" LED TO PROBLEMS WITH PACINO'S NASAL PASSAGES.

Though there has long been a myth that Pacino snorted real cocaine on camera for Scarface, the "cocaine" used in the movie was supposedly powdered milk (even if De Palma has never officially stated what the crew used as a drug stand-in). But just because it wasn't real doesn't mean that it didn't create problems for Pacino's nasal passages. "For years after, I have had things up in there," Pacino said in 2015. "I don't know what happened to my nose, but it's changed."

12. PACINO'S NOSE WASN'T HIS ONLY BODY PART TO SUFFER DAMAGE.

Still of Al Pacino as Tony Montana in 'Scarface' (1983)
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In the film's very bloody conclusion, Montana famously asks the assailants who've invaded his home to "say hello to my little friend," which happens to be a very large gun. That gun took a beating from all the blanks it had to fire, so much so that Pacino ended up burning his hand on its barrel. "My hand stuck to that sucker," he said. Ultimately, the actor—and his bandaged hands—had to sit out some of the action in the last few weeks of production.

13. STEVEN SPIELBERG DIRECTED A SINGLE SHOT.

De Palma and Spielberg had been friends since the two began making studio movies in the mid-1970s, and they made a habit of visiting each other’s sets. Spielberg was on hand for one of the days of shooting the Colombians’ initial attack on Tony Montana’s house at the end of the movie, so De Palma let Spielberg direct the low-angle shot where the attackers first enter the house.

14. SOME COOL TECHNOLOGY WENT INTO THE GUN MUZZLE FLASHES.

In order to heighten the severity of the gunfire, De Palma and the special effects coordinators created a mechanism to synchronize the gunfire with the open shutter on the movie camera to show the huge muzzle flash coming from the guns in the final shootout.

15. SADDAM HUSSEIN WAS A FAN OF THE FILM.

The trust fund the former Iraqi dictator set up to launder money was called “Montana Management,” a nod to the company Tony uses to launder money in the movie.

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