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Oliver Stone talks ''W''

The director on why it’s wrong to judge his intentions based on a first draft script, his goal to make ”a magic realism biography,” and what he thinks of Barack Obama

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Oliver Stone
Armando Gallo / Retna

Later this month, Oliver Stone will start filming W, a $30 million biopic in which Josh Brolin will star as President George W. Bush. Big shocker: The project is already generating controversy, with some Bush historians (and lots of Republicans) crying foul. Before production began in Shreveport, La., the 61-year-old three-time Oscar-winning writer/director talked to Entertainment Weekly about the movie for our current cover story — here, read more from Stone about why he’s making the film, who he might be voting for this election, and what he really thinks of George W Bush.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, first question — what’s going on with Dick Cheney? Have you cast that part yet?
OLIVER STONE:
Funny you ask that question. We’re going after — I can’t say who. But we’re going after somebody very interesting. You know, it’s not a money film for actors, and actors sometimes want money.

Well, there were reports in the press that Robert Duvall was being considered.
We never actually went to him for that role — I had a different conception of it.

In the script we’ve read —
The famous one on the street, you mean.

The one that leaked out to the press.
The [press] sent that script around [to various historians], which is unethical. It’s wrong. That was a first draft of a movie that takes a year to write. If one of the [historians’] essays got out in first-draft form, they would have gone crazy. How can you judge something on a first draft?

You know, some people thought it was an April Fool’s joke. The idea of Oliver Stone making a movie about George Bush that would be released before he left office, it’s pretty unbelievable.
There is no reason this can’t be [portrayed] as a gonzo presidency. There is an element of humor to this story. I would say it’s a satire. At the same time I want to have some magic to it. It’s a different approach — a magic realism biography.

Obviously W is going to be controversial, especially if you release it before the November election. Probably even more controversial than JFK or Nixon were. Is there something about controversial political figures that you can’t resist?
If Joan of Arc were alive and being burned at the stake today, I might be interested. Unless her story were being overdone by a lot of other people — then I wouldn’t go there. It’s got to be fresh material. We don’t know much about Bush yet. There have been early books. I thought [Richard Clarke’s] Against All Enemies was a great beginning to an investigation. And we read all the [Bob] Woodward books, but Woodward goes light on Bush, very light. Stanley Weiser [Stone’s co-writer on W] read 17 books on Bush. The guy worked real hard to get it right. But this is early. You’ve got to let the books build over years.

What about the current presidential race? What are you making of it?
I don’t follow the details. It makes me sad. I think Obama stands for something, that he believes his message. But the media punches people down. Anybody can be broken apart if they have the searchlight on them all the time. And even if he becomes President, what’s he going to do? What’s he going to do about the debt? How will he get out of Iraq? You can’t get out. We’re stuck there. Not only there, but we have a war in Afghanistan and troops in other countries. It’s going to be hard to disentangle from that nexus, even for Obama. I really feel for the guy. I hope for the guy. You’ve got to try. What else can we do?

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