SXSW FILM 2013
By Dirk Sonniksen | March 17, 2013
Director(s): Joey Figueroa, Zak Knutson
John Milius began his career at the same juncture as the likes of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, but with a decidedly different course. While Spielberg and Lucas would go on to careers in directing, Milius began writing scripts, such as Magnum Force, Conan the Barbarian, and Apocalypse Now, the latter making the lines, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “Charlie don’t surf,” ubiquitous with film fans around the world. During the 70s, Milius was pumping out more scripts than just about anyone and had gained a reputation as the writer in Hollywood. Unfortunately, his abilities as a writer would eventually be overshadowed by a bigger-than-life persona, and while his wild escapades endeared to him to many, these same escapades would become his undoing.
Milius is a documentary loaded with great interviews that delve not only into the life and times of John Milius, but into the history of Hollywood. Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, George Hamilton, Clint Eastwood, Oliver Stone, Robert Zemeckis, Charlie Sheen, and many more, all spin entertaining yarns about their days working with John Milius. From Milius putting a gun in the hand of Martin Sheen during his reading of the Apocalypse Now voice-over, to his Oscar after-party at his favorite burger joint, the story of Milius reads like…a great script.
Milius is an interesting look at not only one of Hollywood’s best writers of the 70s, but also the study of the system of Hollywood, a system that would eventually cast out John Milius, a guy known at the time for writing the best dialogue in town. That said, Milius was known for being difficult and sticking to his guns (literally) regarding the finality of his scripts. One thing that can’t be said about John Milius is that he sold out. Sam Elliott perhaps describes Milius best in the opening sequence of the film, saying, “He doesn’t write for pussies and he doesn’t write for women. He writes for men, because he’s a man.” Whether he will again write great scripts has yet to be seen (Genghis Khan, for which Milius penned the screenplay, is in pre-production), but now that I know more about John Milius, I’ll certainly have my eyes peeled for his work.