Oliver Stone vs. George W. Bush
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It feels like moviedom’s version of an Ultimate Fighting grudge match--Bush vs. Stone.
The two men were born into wealth and were briefly classmates at Yale, but since then, the twain has hardly met. One ducked out of military service, boozed and brawled until he found God, ran a baseball team and turned to politics, ending up as governor of Texas and a two-term president, though the last years, thanks to a disastrous war in Iraq, have been pretty much of a fiasco, with his party losing Congress and his popularity ratings at historic lows. The other earned medals in Vietnam before emerging as a bigger-than-life Hollywood filmmaker, tackling the Big Issues of the day (‘Platoon,’ ‘Wall Street’ and ‘JFK’) before seeing his own career take a downhill slide of its own, the bumps in the road smoothed over with booze and psychedelics.
Now another chapter is being written. Down in Louisiana, Oliver Stone has been shooting ‘W,’ his very personal take on the psychological evolution of George W. Bush, the movie everyone in Hollywood is dying to see but no one was willing to fund. It stars Josh Brolin as Dubya, with Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney and Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush.
Our film reporter John Horn has just returned from steamy Shreveport, where he watched Stone filming a father-son scene between Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. set during Dubya’s tenure as owner of the Texas Rangers, with a local football stadium standing in for the Rangers’ home field. John’s story will run this Sunday, but here’s a sneak peek at some of his interview with Stone.
Horn writes: ‘Racing to film, edit and release the film before the November election, Stone was not always getting even five hours of sleep a night. Even though it was nearly midnight and the crew was just finishing its lunch break, the 61-year-old director grew increasingly animated talking about ‘W.’
‘ ‘I love Michael Moore, but I didn’t want to make that kind of movie,’ Stone said of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.’ It [‘W’] is not an overly serious movie, but it is a serious subject. It’s a Shakespearean story ... I see it as the strange unfolding of American democracy as I have lived it.’ ‘
Later on, Horn gets Stone to offer his own armchair psychoanalysis of the president:
‘Stone, who was briefly a Yale classmate of Bush, is clearly no fan of the president’s politics, but says he’s amazed by his resilience and ambition. ‘He won a huge amount of people to his side after making a huge amount of blunders and really lying to people,’ the director said. What further fascinates Stone is Bush’s religious and personal conversion: a hard-drinking C student who was able to become not only Texas governor but also the leader of the free world.
‘ ‘We are trying to walk in the footsteps of W and try to feel like he does, to try to get inside his head. But it’s never meant to demean him,’ Stone said. ‘We are playing with our own opinions and our own preconceptions of him. This is his diary--his attempt to explain himself in his own words.’ ‘
Coming next: A sneak peek at the ‘W’ script.
George W. Bush photo by Jim Watson / AFP Getty Images
Oliver Stone photo by Jan Bauer / Associated Press