Case study 1 – Natural Born Killers


Case Study 1:

The programme I shall choose for this task is a movie directed by Oliver Stone called Natural Born Killers (1994) The reason why I chose this movie because the film is a satire on America’s media obsession with violence.

It is hugely entertaining and thought provokingly engrossing it stars Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Robert Downey Jr, and Tommy Lee Jones.



The film has a clear message on what is trying to say on people, society, America. The film was originally written by Quentin Tarantino after True Romance written by Tarantino and directed by the late Tony Scott. In the film the main character Clarence played by Christian Slater writes a fictional script to his girlfriend called Natural Born Killers. Tarantino wanted to direct himself this road crime movie after True Romance himself but was short on ca$h so he sells the script to 2 rookie Hollywood producers for money. Then he gets lucky and directs Reservoir dogs, the film became a big success with Tarantino earning lot’s money. so Quentin Tarantino wanted to buy his Natural Born Killers script back  from the people he sold it too Jane Hamsher and Don Murphy. However they refused and the script was already brought from the Warner Brother executives. Enter Oliver Stone, political filmmaker and 2 time Academy award winner for best director for Platoon and Born on the 4th of July. Oliver Stone had just made a Vietnam war movie entitled Heaven and Earth (1993) he was looking for a more straightforward project to make at first Oliver Stone was willing to make the movie into an action film  starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Because he wanted to make something far more different than his other movies.


However real life intervened it was the midst of the late 80’s and early 90’s. There was the rise of hip hop with N.W.A form of expressionism over the police racist violence with black people. There were the relentless crimes in South Central Los Angeles. There was the murders of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer during the 70’s until the 90’s, there were the killings of Richard Ramirez a.k.a the Night Stalker there was Aileen Wuornos who murdered seven men during 1989 and 1990, There was the murders of Lyle and Erik Menendez , There was the Rodney king police brutality that led to the infamous L.A. riots of 1992, and of course there was the People vs O.J. Simpson.

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Using all these sources, Oliver Stone took influence of providing the media’s market of violence and suffering for the good ratings disguised as a black comedy road crime thriller movie and so Stone decided to rewrite the screenplay.

With most of Tarantino’s dialogue still remaining the vision and visual style was something completely different.

As for the cast of the film Stone needed an Actor known for playing more or less psychotic characters such as Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs. However WB needed an actor much more less intimidating to make the character of Mickey arguable even more disturbing. As it turns out Woody Harrelson coming straight out of a TV series entitled Cheers, his own father was a professional hitman and was sentenced for life for murder which intrigued Stone, Juliette Lewis who plays Mallory went through an Audition, previously the role was offered to singer Tori Amos whom had a similar background history to Mallory which included sexual abuse and domestic violence. According to Tori’s autobiography she said that Oliver brought her coffee and offered her the role on the condition that whenever Mallory kills somebody she would have to sing Me and a Gun, Amos slapped Oliver around the face and left. So Lewis provides an audition and by convincing Stone she grabbed his genitals and said quote on quote, ”If you think that any of these other actresses could physically kill you, then hire them”.



By this point the script of Natural Born Killers was starting to build intrigued, Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi refused roles as that Tarantino ( angry over the fact he couldn’t direct) would never cast them again if they accepted. In the other casting scenario’s Robert Downey Jr was cast as TV  journalist Wayne Gale ( Downey Jr. only agreed to play the part if he can pull off an Australian accent, this was before his Iron Man era and his drug habit.)Tom Sizemore was cast as Detective Scagnetti and Tommy Lee Jones was cast as Warden McClusky ( only if he could base his performance of Moliere’s play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.)

The Making of Natural Born Killers:

  • During the making of the film near the prison riot sequences towards the end of the movie, actual prison inmates convicted for murdering their wives and kids with weapons were cast as extras in the movie


  • According to the sources Oliver Stone’s vision of the film was that the film must be psychedelically as wild as possible, He got his entire cast and crew stoned on LSD and psychedelic mushrooms as a form of experiment to film the surreal and chaotic sequences . Including the cinematographer of the film Robert Richardson who shot Oliver Stone’s previous efforts JFK and Born on the 4th of July.  Whom originally severely declined the project after his wife almost died due to childbirth.


  • As for the soundtrack for the film, Stone hired Trent Reznor from Nine inch Nails. Whom watched the film over 50 times to get a vibe and a atmosphere in order to know exactly what kind of sound he needed for nearly every single sequences in the movie.

The Controversy of Natural Born Killers.

Natural Born Killers is considered the 8th most controversial film of all time, it stands somewhere between A Clockwork Orange and Irreversible according to the Newsweek magazine.

  • One of the main controversies of the movie was a simple cuddly bear Coca-Cola commercial that intervened during scenes involving an extensive amount of brutal violence as a form of satirical expression saying all is safe. Then immediate after the ad shots of decapitation and bloody corpses will be floating around the scenes. This really upsetted the Coca-Cola board of directors who would after refuse to use it’s brand of commercials in movies ever again.


  • The film also received irrelevant charges, Oliver Stone was accused of worshipping violence and it was also close to being banned from cinemas in the U.K. until it was released in February of 1995.


  • The most disturbing  aspect after the film was released was the  multiple crimes that were committed which were copycats of the movie.

1 ) There was the shooting of William Savage and Patsy Byers

Once upon a time in March 1995 James Darras and his girlfriend Sarah Edmondson spent one night in a cabin watching Natural Born Killers. 2 days later on March 7th Darras shot cotton manager twice in the head with a 38 calibre  revolver resulting in murder. Later Darras and Edmonson shot local cashier Patsy Byers, however she survived the attack.  The pair were arrested in July 95 after Byers took legal actions. And Oliver Stone was filed a lawsuit that was amended by Byers herself, however the suit was dismissed.


2) The Richardson Family murders

On April 2005, 23 year old Jeremy Steinke and his 12 year old girlfriend murdered her parents including her 8 year old brother, the following day Steinke  was arrested and was married to her. In July 2007 it was discovered that Jeremy watched Natural Born Killers the night before the murders. He even said quote on quote that he was going to Natural Born Killer on the parents.


3)  The Dallas Texas decapitation

In September 1994 a 14 year old kid decapitated his 13 year old classmate after his arrest and questioning he said because he wanted to be famous like Mickey and Mallory from Natural Born Killers.

4) The Manhunt of Nathan Martinez

A month after the Texas decapitation, in October a 17 year old named Nathan Martinez shot and killed his stepmother and half sister then went on the run around Bluffdale, Utah. Once arrested Martinez claimed to have seen the film over 10 times and shaved his head and was wearing round sunglasses to gain a resemblance of Mickey from Natural Born Killers.


5) The Infamous Columbine High School massacre.

A crime so infamous, Gus Van Sant made a movie based on the material entitled Elephant. In April 1999 in Columbine Colorado Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students then committed suicide. It was later confirmed that the pair were huge fans of NBK, In the journals of Eric Harris he wrote that the morning of April 20th was the holy morning of NBK, and that he was stuck in humanity and that NBK was a way to break free.



6) The Heath High School shooting

2 years before Columbine on December 1997, 14 year old Michael Carneal shot and killed 3 of his classmates and wounded five others, then surrended to the principal. After his arrest, Lawyer Jack Thompson filed a lawsuit upon Warner Bros because as it was revealed Michael loved the video games of Doom, ortal Kombat, the 1995 film The Basketball Diaries starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Mark Wahlberg and of course NBK.


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7) The Milwaukee strangling.

On July 19th 2008, Eric Tavulares and his girlfriend Lauren Aljubouri were watching NBK, Later she stopped the film and went to bed. Later when Eric went to bed they started talking. Then Eric randomly started strangling Lauren until her death. Once arrested it was revealed that he wanted to perform a similar scenario from a scene of NBK in which he saw at least 20 times.


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Case study 1 – Natural Born Killers