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By Noah Lee | March 13, 2013

“He doesn’t write for p*****s, he writes for men.” – Sam Elliott on John Milius

“Apocalypse Now,” “Conan the Barbarian,” “Dillinger” and “Dirty Harry” all have several things in common. They’re tough movies, loaded with violence, brutality, and all contain a heft to the characters that have resonated since first put to celluloid. You can thank John Milius for this. In the documentary “Milius,” his story is finally told, and if anyone in Hollywood needed their tale to be brought to life, it is this writer and director.

He calls himself a Zen Anarchist. He is a gun lover, counter-counter culturist, rebel, maverick and one hell of a writer. Every time someone “love(s) the smell of napalm in the morning” it should be attributed to John Milius. The USS Indianapolis speech from “Jaws”? This is also his work, told to Spielberg over the phone one evening, by request to help fix Quint’s monologue. He emerged out of USC film school alongside his friend George Lucas after a failed military career. Milius became the go-to guy for punching up his and fellow collaborator Steven Spielberg’s scripts, and has closely worked alongside them throughout their careers. Even to this day, people have wanted to work with him and attempt to get his signature style into the scripts for their films. This isn’t always easy, as even early on Milius’ career he would request to be plied with women, guns and motorcycles. He’s known for his rough and tumble, no-nonsense attitude.

“Milius” is told through a massive collection of talking head interviews from a who’s who of Hollywood’s finest, including Spielberg, Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Richard Dreyfuss, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, George Hamilton, Martin Scorsese, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bryan Singer, as well as Milius’ two children and many others. The collection of people that directors Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson convinced to talk about this character is an attribute to how loved and respected (and maybe even feared) he is in Hollywood. The stories they relate are all quite interesting, at times hilarious and end up presenting a fair and seemingly complete story of Milius’ life up until this point. We’re also lucky to get some interview footage with the man himself taken from a 2004 interview, previous to the devastating turn his life took after he had a stroke.

His life wasn’t always easy, with a major rough patch coming after the making of “Red Dawn.” Milius was always known to make movies that he wanted to, and he’s certainly not a character you can tell “no” to. This is a man who will pull out a 9mm Colt pistol and lay it on the table when going through negotiations with producers. However, after the release of “Red Dawn,” this over-the-top persona and the right wing perception of the film got him branded as a fascist by the likes of film critic Pauline Kael. His reputation within the Hollywood circles became quite negative and ended with Milius being blacklisted, possibly literally, or just from people distancing themselves from him.

With stories such as these, Figueroa and Knutson have created an intimate portrait of a true maverick of cinema. John Milius has been a massive behind the scenes influence on many culturally significant films, as well as creator of his own classics. Finally we have a story that attempts to encapsulate his explosive character. “Milius” is a successful portrait of a film maker and writer that is enticing, entertaining, an eye opener for film fans and a tribute to the man himself.

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