The Stones Discuss Filmmaking as Oliver’s Son Sean Makes His Directorial Debut
Call it nepotism or genius in the genes – father and son directors have included Ivan and Jason Reitman, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, John and Nick Cassavetes, Lawence Kasdan and sons Jake and Jon, Ridley and Jake Scott, David and Brandon Cronenberg, and Melvin and Mario Van Peebles. And then, in the minority, are Sofia Coppola and papa Francis Ford, and John and Angelica Houston. Sean Stone, 27, the son of Oliver “Savages” Stone, has now entered the arena. His directorial debut, a found-footage horror movie “Greystone Park,” about filmmakers trolling an abandoned Victorian mental institution, is now out on DVD and VOD. Dad Oliver joined his son to talk to Yahoo!
Thelma Adams: You’ve been collaborating since Sean was a baby in “Platoon.” He played the young Jim Morrison in “The Doors” and the young Jimmy Kovic in “Born on the Fourth of July.”
Sean Stone: It’s not collaboration as much as I was acting, doing a small part in my father’s movies. I wasn’t necessarily conscious, but it was part of my education. When I played Jim Morrison, I didn’t know who he was.
TA: But later, you made a behind-the-scenes documentary on your father’s set.
SS: With “Alexander,” I shot a behind-the-scenes documentary for the DVD when I was a 19-year-old student at Princeton.
Oliver Stone: When he was young, it was just a thing to do, to put your kid in your movies. “Salvador” was his first movie. I needed a baby to cry, and his mother was screaming at me. At that time, in 1980, I had smoke in the room, and she was an eco-conscious New Age type so there could be no smoke in the room. He ended up fine – and it was some of the better images of him as a baby. Then during “Alexander,” Sean participated behind the scenes. He edited an interesting documentary that still holds water to this day. He edited on “W.” That was a painful, difficult movie because nobody in American wanted to fund it. As for Sean, I went on to “Wall Street”…
SS: I worked for a year on his “Untold History of the United States” documentary series.
OS: Right. He was one of the editors. He was in and out for about a year.
TA: And, now that Sean has directed a feature, he’s getting some payback from you since you are in a scene of this movie.
SS: He gets the cameo this time. We had this dinner with Alexander [Wraith] where we are all talking. And [co-writer, co-star] Alexander began to tell us about this New Jersey mental hospital like the hotel in “The Shining.”
TA: And that dinner table conversation, with your dad contributing scary stories from when he was a camper, became part of the final film.
SS: Yes. Based on that dinner table conversation, Alexander and I went to the hospital. And, because, I was going to play myself, it felt natural to have cast my own father – and my father is a good storyteller.
TA: Did you feel like it was a challenge to take that found-footage film format and make it your own?
SS: You have to feel that you have something to tell. My father’s always been very good as a writer-director. He has a POV. I don’t want to do something as a hired gun. “Greystone Park” doesn’t look or feel like a typical found-footage film. It’s cut a bit more like “Natural Born Killers” than “Paranormal Activity.” Stylistically we wanted to mix it up and make it unique and separate from found-footage genre that is now completely saturated.
TA: Oliver, how did you prepare Sean for his role as director?
OS: I wasn’t thinking about him. On the set, I was just happy to have a family member with me, especially my oldest son. On the set, there’s so much going on, and he listened in on conversations. I remember he had the earpiece a few times just to get a sense of what was going on in these private consultations. There are a thousand eyes on a movie set. There’s no time to sit there and say “well, son.” You have to pay attention. I think it’s important that he goes his own way. It’s a difficult process and very few succeed. As for us, the nepotism stopped a few years ago. You can never make anybody else’s life. Sean has to cut it on his own. He gives me stuff to read, and I try to give him tough, true answers and not BS.
TA: And, Sean, what’s one of your favorite memories of being on set with your father?
SS: One of the funnier memories of being on set was on “Natural Born Killers” because I was playing the son of Rodney Dangerfield. Mallory [Juliette Lewis] is my sister, and my parents get murdered. I was nine years old. I wasn’t quite aware of all the implications of the dialog in the scene. I had no idea what I was talking about. We were joking that I should join Mickey [Woody Harrelson] and Mallory on their trip across country, their murderous rampage. My father liked the idea just to shock my mother since they were going through a divorce. It was a funny shoot.
TA: I’m sure your mother must have loved it!