Platoon (1986) Poster



Jump to: Director Cameo (1) | Spoilers (1)
Oliver Stone wrote the first draft of Platoon in 1971 and sent it to Jim Morrison in hopes that he would play the part Charlie Sheen would ultimately play. Morrison had the script on him when he was found dead in Paris. It is unknown whether he would have been cast had he lived, however Stone eventually made The Doors (1991) based on Morrison's life.
Toward the end of the film, when the reinforcements arrive after the battle, Rhah (Francesco Quinn) reaches into a dead VC's breast pocket, pulls something out, and keeps it, while looking around nervously. The item he is removing is heroin, which VC soldiers used as a painkiller. Many heroin-addicted US troops did the same thing. The scene implies that Rhah's mystical quality is a symptom of a larger problem.
Prior to the scene where Elias' half of the platoon is smoking dope, the actors actually did smoke marijuana. Unfortunately for them, Willem Dafoe reported, by the time the stage was set and they actually filmed, everyone had come off their high and felt awful.
The movie was filmed nearly sequentially; as soon as their characters were killed in the movie, the actors returned home. The emotion that Charlie Sheen shows in the closing helicopter scene was largely real, knowing that he was finally going home.
The movie poster depicting Elias with his hands in the air, is a recreation of a 1968 photograph by Art Greenspon. This photograph was recognized as the 13th greatest military photograph in a Sept 2000 issue of the Army/Navy/AF Time.
According to his DVD commentary, the scene in which Chris saves a Vietnamese girl from being raped on is based on an incident in which Oliver Stone intervened in an assault on a villager in Nam.
At one point, a character is warned not to drink from a river because he might get malaria. During filming, Willem Dafoe got thirsty and drank water from a river, not knowing that a dead pig was not far upstream. He was sick for 24 hours, but not with malaria.
Oliver Stone considered casting Johnny Depp for the lead role of Pvt. Chris Taylor but Depp was too young for the part and unknown at the time. Stone said that Depp would someday become a huge star and is thus one of the first filmmakers who introduced Johnny Depp to Hollywood.
The movie is narrated by Charlie Sheen, eerily echoing his father Martin Sheen's narration of another Vietnam war movie, Apocalypse Now (1979), also filmed extensively on location in the Philippines.
Several of the actors wrote messages on their helmets worn throughout the movie. Charlie Sheen's helmet reads, "When I die, bury me upside-down, so the world can kiss my ass", while Johnny Depp's simply reads, "Sherilyn", a tribute to Sherilyn Fenn, whom Depp was dating at the time. Mark Moses (Lt. Wolfe) had on his helmet a drawing of MAD magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman with the phrase "What, me worry?" and, according to Tom Berenger, this caused Oliver Stone to laugh hysterically once during filming.
In many U.S. military leadership classes, the character of Lt. Wolfe (Mark Moses) is used as an example of how not to behave as a junior officer.
Drawn from Oliver Stone's own personal experiences as an Army combat infantryman in Vietnam. He wrote it quickly upon his return from action and partly to counter the false depiction of war he had seen in John Wayne's The Green Berets (1968).
With this movie, Oliver Stone became the first Vietnam veteran to direct a major motion picture about the Vietnam War. He was already the first Vietnam veteran to win an Oscar (for Midnight Express (1978), a distinction which he still holds, and became with this picture the first Vietnam vet to win an Oscar for Best Director. As of 2010 he is the last veteran of any war to win an Oscar for Best Director, other than Clint Eastwood who served in the Army during the Korean War, but never went to Korea.
Banned in Vietnam because of its depiction of the Vietnamese.
According to Oliver Stone, he intentionally cast Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe against type (Berenger, who played the ruthless, sadistic Sgt. Barnes, was mostly famous at that point for playing good guys, while Dafoe, who had primarily played villains up until then, played the heroic, compassionate Sgt. Elias). The casting worked, and both men received Oscar nominations for their work.
In a TV interview, Charlie Sheen credited Keith David with saving his life. While shooting in an open-doored Huey gunship, the helicopter banked too hard and Sheen was thrown towards - and would have gone through - the open door. David grabbed him by the back and pulled him back in.
Tom Berenger's lifelike scar required three hours of makeup work every day of shooting.
All of the actors had to endure a harsh 14-day boot camp in the Philippines before the shooting of the film commenced. The actors were given military haircuts, were required to stay in character throughout the camp, ate only military rations, were not allowed to shower, slept in the jungle, and even had rotations for night watch.
The final battle in the movie was a recreation of an actual event that was witnessed by technical advisor Dale Dye, who was a combat correspondent with 2nd Btn, 3rd Marines.
Johnny Depp recalled that during one particularly stressful scene, he was so intimidated by Oliver Stone's aggressive behavior that he came close to vomiting. Stone still insisted on a second take.
Technical advisor Dale Dye is in a body bag being taken off a truck at the start of the film.
During the opening credits, Big Harold (Forest Whitaker) falls and rolls down a hill. Whitaker claims it was a real, unintentional fall.
Shot in only 54 days.
Originally Charlie Sheen was turned down for the main role of Chris because it was felt he was too young for the part. His older brother Emilio Estevez was offered the part but the project fell apart due to financial problems. Two years later the project was given the go-ahead, but Estevez had already committed to other projects. Charlie Sheen again read for the part and won it.
Prior to going after Elias (Willem Dafoe), Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) threatens to "Article 15" Taylor unless they return to the base camp. Article 15 is a section of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that allows superiors to mete out non-judicial punishment under certain conditions. Specifically, it spells out U.S. military punishment for serious insubordination.
The dog tags which make up the double O's in the poster for the film are those of Willem Dafoe's character Sgt. Elias Grodin. Grodin, Elias K. 3365664125 USKC-987654
Before shooting commenced, all of the actors had to undergo an intensive two-week basic training under the supervision of military adviser Dale Dye. Oliver Stone's intention was not to have the men bond and act as one unit but to deprive them of sleep and make them utterly exhausted, so that they would be burnt out and therefore in character.
Some of the Vietnamese cast members were actually tourists who were vacationing in the Philippines at the time of filming.
Aside from editing the film (and winning an Oscar for her work), Claire Simpson also suggested to Oliver Stone that he use Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" over some of the more emotional footage.
Just before the initiation of the end-fight, a NVA soldier is seen planting a yellow "axe" made of bamboo. The "axe" was a pointer to guide the NVA soldiers to the American base.
After Taylor (Charlie Sheen) takes his revenge on Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger), the other platoon arrives to look for survivors and someone asks Taylor if he's okay. As he does, Taylor quickly drops a grenade. The script didn't call for it, but Sheen thought his character would be suicidal at that point in the movie, and director Oliver Stone liked it and kept it in the movie.
Special packs of Marlboro cigarettes were made for the movie on the insistence of Oliver Stone, who wanted the cherry-red color on the pack to more closely match those made during the late 1960s.
Tom Berenger lost 28 pounds during the pre-filming boot camp. Filming for the movie began the day after the camp ended; Oliver Stone didn't want the actors to lose their edge.
At one point Junior and several other black soldiers are talking about the situation in the platoon. Sgt. Warren remarks that they should trust Barnes, while Junior retorts that Warren's ideas of a good leader may be contaminated by the 'shit' he 'shoots up'. This is a reference to Sgt. Warren's addiction to morphine, which was left ambiguous in the final movie.
Johnny Depp says when he left for the Philippines for this movie at the age of 22, it was his first time out of the United States.
The US Department of Defense declined to co-operate in the making of the film. Military equipment was loaned from the Filippino armed forces.
The paper pinned to Manny's (Corkey Ford's) dead body is a South Vietnam safe conduct pass. These papers were dropped en masse over South Vietnam in an unsuccessful attempt to get the VC and NVA to surrender. The enemy troops are showing their contempt for the Americans by attaching the pass to Manny's corpse.
First part of Oliver Stone's Vietnam-trilogy. The other two are Heaven & Earth (1993) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989). Many of the Platoon (1986) actors have bit parts in "Born."
Oliver Stone wanted James Woods, the star of his previous film Salvador (1986), to have a role in the film. Remembering the hectic, grueling shoot in Mexico, Woods turned Stone down. Woods once said of this, "I couldn't take the mud". Although Woods was later interested in being in JFK (1991), he would not work with Stone again until Nixon (1995), nine years later.
Oliver Stone originally was looking for a Native American actor to play Sergeant Elias. When he failed to do so, he cast Willem Dafoe instead. Several scenes with Elias reflect Stone's original idea of the Native American spirit embodying Elias.
Director Oliver Stone at one point wanted Mickey Rourke for Sgt. Barnes and Nick Nolte as the experienced Sgt. Elias. Both were offered the parts, and both turned it down.
Bunny tries to encourage Junior by saying "You're hanging out with Audie Murphy here my man!". Audie Murphy was one of the most decorated American soldiers of World War II. He received the Medal of Honor and at least 32 other medals during his war-career. Murphy became a household name after he was featured on the cover of Life Magazine in 1945 and his subsequent movie roles.
In the aftermath of the end-fight, Francis stabs himself in his leg with a knife in order to get out of Vietnam. When Francis is seen leaving on the medical chopper, Rodriguez is also seen with a bandaged leg suggesting he too may have stabbed his own leg in order to get out of future military service.
Denzel Washington lobbied for the role of Sgt. Elias.
Most of the voices heard over the radios are provided by technical advisor Dale Dye.
At the end of the scene where Willem Dafoe and John C. McGinley are arguing about whose team should have to pull perimeter watch, John C. McGinley's character says, "Guy's in 3 years and he thinks he's Jesus F'n Christ or something." Dafoe went on to play Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) one year later.
Oliver Stone had an actual RPG fired towards the end. This added to the effect's realism.
Based on Oliver Stone's personal experience during the war in Vietnam based on a screenplay he finished around 1976. Numerous studios passed on it until he finally got approval and starting filming in early 1986.
The cast and crew arrived in the Philippines in early 1986, almost simultaneous to the beginning of the Edsa Revolution of 1986 that toppled Ferdinand Marcos. Willem Dafoe said that a day or two after he arrived in Manila, he awoke to see a column of tanks rolling down the streets.
Director Oliver Stone remembered that while casting the movie, Kris Kristofferson was thrown around by some as a potential 'Sgt. Elias', since he was in real-life close to the character in type, and had been an Airborne Ranger. Stone, however, was not keen, as Kristofferson was "way too old" and had not had a hit movie since Convoy (1978).
Jeff Bridges was considered for Sgt. Elias.
The film is "Dedicated to the men who fought and died in the Vietnam War".
Oliver Stone suggested that the cast and crew camp out on location while filming an early scene on a hill they could only reach by hiking in. Everyone agreed to that at first, but that night, after hiking up the hill and finishing their day's work, everyone ran back down to the valley.
Technical advisor Dale Dye was also the door-gunner on one of the Hueys after the church ambush. He made sure that his visor was down to disguise the identity of the gunner, as Dye also played Captain Harris.
According to Charlie Sheen, he kissed the ground when he returned home from filming in the Philippines.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #86 Greatest Movie of All Time.
One of three Vietnam-based films released within 9 months of each other in 1986-87. The other two were Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987) and John Irvin's Hamburger Hill (1987).
James Woods turned down a role, saying he "couldn't face going into another jungle with Oliver Stone."
The part of Sergeant Barnes was originally offered to Kevin Costner.
Technical advisor Dale Dye's wife Katherine was the Vietnamese woman who was thrown into a mass-grave by two American soldiers after the Final Battle.
Because of the film's low budget, cinematographer Robert Richardson had to cut corners. Come the release of the DVD, however, he was able to tweak the hues in the ways he had only imagined before.
By the end of production, it only took half an hour to apply Tom Berenger's facial scarring. Berenger would only wear it when necessary as it ended up hurting his face.
At the initiation of the end-fight, Raha tells Taylor air cover is coming in with "Snake and Nape", meaning the typical Vietnam CAS load out 250-lb. Mk-81 Snakeye bombs and 500-lb. M-47 napalm canisters.
The character of Bunny (Kevin Dillon) takes at least some of his lines and characteristics from the book 'Nam by Mark Baker. 'Nam is a collection of first hand accounts of soldiers who were in the Vietnam war, first published in the early 1980's. The line, "The only worry you had was dying, and if that happened you wouldn't know it anyway. So what the fuck" comes directly from the "Baptism of Fire" chapter of the book (p. 67). In addition, a soldier in the "Grunts" chapter of the book "had a scalp hanging off his helmet" at the back as does the character of Bunny in the film.
First-time credited film role for Francesco Quinn, Bob Orwig, Reggie Johnson, Mark Moses, Corey Glover, Paul Sanchez, Ivan Kane, and several of the other actors in the film.
Another reference to Sherilyn Fenn can be seen on Johnny Depp's guitar in the scene where they are smoking dope: the carved initials S.F.
When the platoon meets with their Captain (Dale Dye), Barnes refers to him as "dai uy" (pronounced die wee) which is Vietnamese for "captain".
Keanu Reeves turned down the role of Pvt. Chris Taylor.
All the lower ranking soldiers carry the M-16A1 rifle, only Sgt. Elias and SSgt. Barnes carry the Colt 653P standing in for the XM177 (albeit poorly).
When Sandy and Sal searches the bunker they come across a box full of maps and "S2 stuff". "S2" was (is) Military Intelligence, meaning those papers would be handed over to S2 for analysis after the platoon's return to base.
Val Kilmer auditioned for the production but was not offered a role.
John Spencer was originally cast as Sgt. O'Neill and John C. McGinley was originally offered the part of Tony. But Spencer dropped out and Stone offered McGinley the larger role. Ivan Kane ended up playing Tony.
The role of Chris was originally offered to Kyle MacLachlan, who turned it down.

Director Cameo 

Oliver Stone:  An officer at the bunker that gets destroyed by a suicide runner.


The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Pockets of fake blood intended to simulate gunshot wounds to Elias's body during the famous "arm-raising" scene malfunctioned and never exploded. However, Willem Dafoe's performance in that take was considered so impressive that the scene was left as is.

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

Contribute to This Page