The Son Also Kneels: Hanging with Oliver Stone’s Kid Sean, Newly Minted Muslim

Forget Fidel—young one gets cozy with Iranian prez

Oliver Stone was deplaning at LAX following a 16-hour trip from Indonesia when he turned on his phone and found it blowing up with texts from his office. Apparently the media—what he called the “paparazzi”—had been in touch. They wanted to ask him about his son, Sean.

In particular, they wanted to know what he thought of Sean’s decision to become a Muslim. Oliver instructed his office to decline comment.

Sean Christopher Ali Stone at a press conference in Tehran, Iran, on Feb. 17 (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

“He never consulted me,” the elder Mr. Stone recalled in a phone call to The Observer from his production office in Los Angeles. “That is something you normally talk to your parents about.”

The director is a practicing Buddhist. “Obviously the Muslim religion believes in a singular god,” he added. “I don’t.”

Sean Stone, a 27-year-old filmmaker who was raised a Buddhist and spent his youth exploring his Christian and Jewish roots (not to mention any number of film sets), is like his old man, a determined—some would say obstinate—truth-seeker. He is also a man of firm opinions who is unafraid to express them in a highly public fashion.

But to peg him, as one Yahoo! News commenter did recently, as “another nut from a spoiled confused family,” is to miss the point entirely.

To hear him tell it, accepting Islam as his faith (and adopting a new Muslim middle name, Ali) is a demonstration that one man can embrace three Abrahamic religions as a gesture of peace.

“I don’t take a priest’s interpretation as sanctity,” he said. “I would not take an imam’s ruling on the Koran as being definitive. I would not take anyone’s word except my own interpretation of the books.”

Mr. Stone’s conversion was only part of his recent media coming-out party. In announcing his newfound faith, he eagerly stepped into perhaps the thorniest foreign policy question of the moment: whether Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, and whether its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a total nutjob.

“My main thing is I don’t want to see a war, an imperialistic war, because I know what it could do to the region,” he said.
Mr. Stone also defended Mr. Ahmadinejad—the man who infamously referred to the Holocaust as a “myth” and declared that Israel should be “wiped off a map”—as a “rational actor.”

“The media is so biased in trying to paint him as a madman, because if he is a madman, you can’t talk to him,” he explained to The Observer.

Mr. Stone first met with Mr. Ahmadinejad in February, when he was a featured guest at the “Hollywoodism and Cinema” conference in Tehran. The president gave him a copy of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat.

When asked what they talked about, Mr. Stone didn’t really remember. The meeting might have seemed an opportunity to do some diplomatic work for his father, who had been eager to follow up his documentary portraits of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez with one on Mr. Ahmadinejad, but had been rebuffed (many Iranians took issue with perceived historical inaccuracies in his Alexander the Great biopic).  Still, the younger Stone didn’t push the issue.

It soon became clear that Mr. Stone’s views on Iran are not all that radical.  For instance, shortly after he defended his opinions to network news blowhards Bill O’Reilly and Piers Morgan, Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad, appeared on 60 Minutes to declare that bombing Iran right now was “the stupidest idea [he] ever heard.”

Still, his comments were controversial, even within his own family. “When you’re younger, you can make mistakes by saying what people don’t want to hear,” the elder Mr. Stone noted. “Sometimes he says stuff that I think is downright fucking stupid.”

The Son Also Kneels: Hanging with Oliver Stone’s Kid Sean, Newly Minted Muslim