1993, Academy Award, Born on the Fourth of July, Chance Encounter, Director, Girl, Hampden-Sydney College, Heaven and Earth, Hollywood, Idol, Jailbait, Oliver Stone, Platoon, Sarah Sherman Soule, Teenage, Testimony, Vietnam, Virginia, Writer
By Sarah Sherman Soule
In the Spring of 1993, I was fifteen years old (and in the tenth grade) when my high school history teacher was asked to send two students to Hampden-Sydney College for a lecture series about Vietnam. One of the speakers was going to be Oliver Stone, the Academy Award winning writer/director of “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July”.
Both my friends and classmates knew about my innocent young girl’s dream of someday going out to Hollywood and becoming an actress–so they were all enthusiastically happy when I was chosen to represent our school.
(Either that or perhaps they were just thrilled themselves to not suffer through a bunch of grown adults yapping on about a conflict that peaked years before they were born.)
I didn’t care. “Born on the Fourth of July” was one of my favorite films, and even though Tom Cruise’s acting (and boyishly good looks) had something to do with that, I knew the man responsible for crafting such a dramatically powerful movie was definitely someone I wanted to hear talk.
And I believe this was right before his new film “Heaven And Earth” opened (starring one of my “Twin Peaks” favorites, Joan Chen) because he was constantly plugging it during his speech.
Of course I didn’t mind. I was simply in awe just listening to a living, breathing, Academy Award winning filmmaker (of whose films I had actually SEEN and LIKED). Definitely not a situation an average high school girl from Virginia finds herself in often.
However, as he continued to speak, I began to feel his eyes returning to find me again and again–practically burning a hole right through my body. It was quite overwhelming, to say the least, and anyone who has seen his many films can tell you how passionate and intense Mr. Stone can be when he sets his sights on something.
I looked around and no one else seemed to be noticing, so I just chalked this feeling up to a fifteen year old girl’s active imagination. After all, there were tons of beautiful, tanned, blonde college girls in the room as well. No way I was being signaled out.
Needless to say I hadn’t even kissed a boy yet at my age, but I just could not shake the feeling that Oliver Stone was focusing his eyes upon me. I thought to myself, “Poor thing. Maybe he’s just nervous and needs someone to look at. Perhaps if I gaze back, that will help him through his speech.” And so I did.
When the lecture finally ended, the audience got up and exited the college auditorium. I was in a daze though. What a weird, strange experience. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before, let alone with one of my favorite directors.
As I began to walk towards the parking lot, a long black limousine pulled up alongside of me and came to a stop. I turned to look as the window rolled down and Oliver Stone was inside.
“It’s you!” He exclaimed with the biggest grin I’ve ever seen. “Come here, beautiful!”
I was stunned and walked over.
Stepping out of the limo, he asked me, “What’s your name?”
Mr. Stone then replied, “You know what, Sarah? The only way I got through that fucking symposium was by staring at your beautiful face. Now I want to know you. I want to know everything about you, Sarah.”
Okay… I may have been naive but I wasn’t stupid. I knew at this moment THE Oliver Stone was hitting on me.
Conversely he asked what college I went to. I then had to break it to him that I was still in high school. But his grin only widened. “Ohhhh. You’re jailbait.”
(I was so innocent at this age that I didn’t even know what that term meant.)
Mr. Stone then took my hand, opened the limo door and started singing Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me” into my ear.
Not knowing what to say, I just looked at him before blurting out, “You know, I really loved Born on the Fourth of July.”
Without hesitation, he shrugged off that compliment, squeezed my hand and whispered, “Come on, Jailbait! You’re coming away with me.”
(In retrospect, this situation must have happened a lot with him. Richard Rutowski states in the 1997 documentary, “The Road of Excess” that he and Oliver Stone once tried to lure a young, Native American girl back to L.A. before her elders stopped them.)
I then looked at him and said, “Thank you very much, Mr. Stone but I need to get back to school with my teachers now.”
Enthusiastically he replied, “Holy shit! Jailbait’s just turning me on more and more!”
I stood firm. “I think it’s time we said goodbye now.”
Feeling defeated, he asked to hug me and we did. My heart broke. He seemed so sad and lonely, but I’m sure it was just a ploy to feel my tits against his belly.
At this moment, a pretty teacher from my school saw us together and called out, “Sarah, come on! The bus is leaving!”
He then said to me, “Damn! Is that your mom?” I couldn’t help but spontaneously laugh.
Mr. Stone then leaned in and kissed me softly on the cheek. “Till we meet again, Jailbait.”
Looking into his eyes, I could tell he was hurt, that he felt rejected–but the only solace I could give him was to shrug off his comment with a half-hearted smile.
He then got in the limo and drove away, as I began to walk back to the bus.
And that’s the day I met Oliver Stone.
**This post is not meant as a condemnation, but merely a reflection upon a moment in my life. I bear no ill-well towards Oliver Stone and I absolutely wish him the best in life. I haven’t missed a film of his yet.
(Sarah Sherman Soule – Then and Now)