”Where is George Bush’s bedroom?”
Oliver Stone is flinging open French doors inside an enormous brick mansion in Shreveport, La., inspecting locations for his new film about the 43rd President of the United States. ”This one is too small,” he says. ”This one looks like George Tenet’s bedroom. Where did we decide to put Bush’s bedroom? It’s around here somewhere, isn’t it?”
Shooting begins in less than two weeks on W (or dub-ya, as it’s spelled out in the initial sketches for the poster), but not everything is exactly where it should be, and not only here in the house where the First Family’s residence will be re-created. The 32,000-square-foot soundstage the production is renting across town stands empty, waiting for the Oval Office and Cabinet Room sets to get trucked in from Los Angeles. The screenplay still needs work too. It’s gone through two rewrites since an earlier draft leaked to the press last month (some skeptics took it as an April Fools’ joke), but Stone would still like one more pass at it (”It’s evolving,” he says). And while most of the cast has been assembled and outfitted with prosthetic noses and hairpieces — Josh Brolin will play President George W. Bush and Elizabeth Banks will star as Laura — there is one major character still in search of an actor: a heavy named Dick Cheney.
Stone is famous for courting controversy with dramas like JFK (1991) and Nixon (1995). But with W, the 61-year-old filmmaker isn’t merely courting it — he’s grabbing controversy by the lapels and giving it a big wet smacker. For the first time, he’s turning his cameras not just on a living president but on one who’ll still be knocking around the White House when the movie premieres late this year. As if that weren’t provocative enough, Stone could end up releasing the film as early as October, at the height of a presidential campaign in which one of the major issues will undoubtedly be the legacy of the guy on the screen. The movie has become a lightning rod before Stone has shot a single frame. If that bootlegged script is any indication, the film will feature such flag-waving moments as the Commander-in-Chief nearly choking to death on a pretzel while watching football on TV and a flashback of him singing the ”Whiffenpoof” song as a frat pledge at Yale, not to mention scenes in which he refers to his advisers by dorky nicknames — ”Guru” for Condoleezza Rice, ”Turdblossom” for Karl Rove, ”Balloon Foot” for Colin Powell — while discussing plans for the invasion of Iraq with the coolness of a late-night poker game.
NEXT: Stone on meeting then governor Bush at a Republican breakfast: ”I wanted to prove that even though people thought I was a leftist I wanted to hear what they had to say. The minute I walked in the room the sound of the silverware kind of died. People were like, ‘What’s he doing here? Satan has walked in.’ But I met George Bush and I remember thinking that this man was going to be president.”