Documentary surveys Oliver Stone's storied career

The hour-long documentary "The Directors: Oliver Stone" (6 p.m., Encore) surveys most of Stone's movies and features extensive interviews with Stone as well as actors Tom Cruise, Anthony Hopkins, Tommy Lee Jones, James Woods, Jim Belushi and others.

Stone expresses surprise and disappointment at the reactions to his two most controversial films, "JFK" and "Natural Born Killers." While he had hoped to reopen a national debate about the Kennedy assassination with his 1992 drama "JFK," he found himself pigeonholed as a "conspiracy nut." Stone expresses incredulity that anyone could take his 1994 film "Natural Born Killers" as a serious depiction of serial murder. Arguing that the film was a satire of violence, the media and the clamor for fame, Stone says, "there's nothing realistic in the violence. It's insane violence, and I thought people could see that."

A veteran of 15 months of combat in Vietnam, Stone wrote the screenplay for "Platoon" in 1976. At the time, he explained, "people were into the script, but (considered it) too much of a downer." It would take 10 years and many producers to bring "Platoon" to the screen, where it reaped commercial success and won a Best Director Oscar for Stone.

Stone's next Vietnam-related film, the 1989 drama "Born on the Fourth of July," gave Cruise his first real shot at a serious dramatic role. Stone dismissed contemporary critics who thought that the "Top Gun" star was inappropriate for an anti-war movie. Stone won a second Oscar for "July," and Cruise earned a reputation as more than just another pretty face.

"Oliver demands a lot from people," Cruise explains, "but he made me give all that I could for the film."

Hopkins offers the director a different kind of praise. "I thought he was crazy offering me Nixon," says Hopkins, who changed his mind and starred in "Nixon" to much acclaim. "The Directors" takes Stone's career up to the present, including discussion of his upcoming drama "Beyond Borders," starring Clive Owen and Angelina Jolie. Followed by "Born on the Fourth of July" (7 p.m., Encore) and "Natural Born Killers" (9:30 p.m., Encore). While unrated by the cable network, both films were released with an "R" rating.

� After losing her money, her house and her family, a middle-class divorcee (Sally Field) takes a menial house-keeping job for a rich couple in the 1999 cable drama "A Cooler Climate" (8 p.m., Lifetime). After a rocky start, she forms a close friendship with her icy boss (Judy Davis). While the story takes some predictable turns, "Cooler" is best watched for the great dynamic between Field and Davis.

� Ben Curtis, the kid who plays the parent-charming computer dude on those Dell computer commercials, is scheduled to chat with Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) along with Rene Russo and Natalie Imbruglia.

Tonight's other highlights

� After Joey's confession, he and Rachel awkwardly try to avoid contact on "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC).

� Ageless and forever fabulous, the Gabor sisters, Magda, Eva and Zsa Zsa, are profiled on "Biography" (7 p.m., A&E;).

� Police find four Buddhist monks executed in their own temple on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).

� A suspected suicide bomber crosses the border on "The Agency" (9 p.m., CBS).

� Abby, Carter, Lewis, Kovac and Gallant open up at a mandatory sensitivity seminar on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).

� Scheduled on "Primetime" (9 p.m., ABC): art as therapy for post-Sept. 11 trauma; an air-traffic-controller turned bank robber.

� Spectacular footage from around the world on "Sports Collisions and Crackups" (9 p.m., TLC).

Series notes

� A second participant faces banishment on "Survivor: Marquesas" (7 p.m., CBS) � On back-to-back episodes of "Family Guy" (Fox), Peter goes to morbid lengths to reinstate a canceled show (7 p.m.), Peter's prank hurts Meg's college chances (7:30 p.m.) � "WWF Smackdown" (7 p.m., UPN) � On back-to-back episodes of "Charmed" (WB), Paige provides custody for a child pyromaniac (7 p.m.), a case of mistaken identity (8 p.m.).

� Faith feels rotten when she sees her jilted ex-fiance with another woman on "Leap of Faith" (7:30 p.m., NBC).

� Feeling out of sorts in their new dream apartment on "Will & Grace" (8 p.m., NBC) � Dale loses face on "King of the Hill" (8 p.m., Fox) � Maya dates a mean-spirited blind man (Dave Foley) on "Just Shoot Me" (8:30 p.m., NBC) � The gang discovers an irresistible new delicacy on "Futurama" (8:30 p.m., Fox).

Late night

� Bruce Willis and Ivan Neville appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS).

� Bill Maher welcomes Merrill Markoe on "Politically Incorrect" (11:05 p.m., ABC).

� Roger Ebert, Doris Wishman and Tom Arnold appear on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC).

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