It’s hard to imagine now, but before veering into comedy movies with Hot Shots in 1991, Charlie Sheen was primarily known for two dramatic roles – in 1987’s Wall Street and 1986’s Platoon – the latter of which won Best Picture. Following in the footsteps of his father Martin’s starring role in Vietnam war movie Apocalypse Now, Charlie Sheen played a semi-fictional version of writer-director Oliver Stone.
Platoon was Charlie Sheen’s breakthrough role – not that you need that much help breaking through when you’re a nepotism baby – but the film could have looked very different. Stone was trying to get it off the ground for a decade before it was made. Initially, Stone would have just been the writer, with someone more established directing.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly on the 25th anniversary of the film, in 2011, Stone said; “It was written in ’76 and was almost made then by Sidney Lumet and Al Pacino. Then there was a period in ’84 when Michael Cimino was going to produce it and Emilio Estevez (Charlie Sheen’s brother) was going to play the role, actually. Kevin Costner passed on it, I believe, because his brother had been in Vietnam.”
Stone was clearly speaking several years before the release of John Wick because he added; “Keanu Reeves turned it down because of the violence. He didn’t want to do violence.”
Speaking of Sheen, Stone said; “Charlie was a dumb-struck 17-year-old the first time he came in for the film, back when we were going to make it in ’84. And in those two years, he’d grown and seemed perfectly wide-eyed and had a vaguely privileged look. I think he did a great job. He was perfect for the movie. He conveys the horror of the place. I like his performance.”
Platoon is widely considered one of the best war movies of all time, to this day. Willem Dafoe delivers a brilliant, and heart-breaking, supporting performance. But it’s hard to imagine it with different actors, including Al Pacino.