Oliver Stone (Snowden) isn’t a stranger to Stephen Colbert‘s late-night news desk, but his interview on The Late Show Monday brought about a mixture of awkwardness and aggravation over the main topic of discussion: Vladimir Putin.
Stone secured unprecedented access to the Russian president in his latest documentary, Showtime’s The Putin Interviews, and Colbert struggled to push the filmmaker to admit anything negative about his subject.
When asked what the most surprising piece of information in the doc is, Stone said, “I can’t tell you how you think. I think he’s devoted to his country and I’m amazed at his calmness, as I said, his courtesy. He never really said anything bad about anybody. I mean, he’s been through a lot and he’s been insulted and abused.”
The answer yielded audible laughs and boos from the audience, and even more when Stone clarified the abuse came from the press. “Anything about him…negative you found?” Colbert asked. “Anything? Anything? Or does he have your dog in a cage some place?”
To that, Stone asked Colbert, “What is wrong with détente with Russia? Why would you be against it? I don’t understand this mentality. Maybe it’s because you hate Trump.” The late-night host clarified he doesn’t “trust” President Trump as Stone said, “Russia is convenient as an excuse for hacking the election.”
Colbert was surprised Stone seemed so pro-Putin. “I don’t understand why our president will never say anything negative about Vladimir Putin given that Putin is an oppressive leader of his country who suppresses the free press and arrests his enemies, and that is not something that I, as an American or a member of the press, can respect,” he said. “And I’m surprised that you do respect that.”
Stone was perplexed when he incited more laughter from the audience for remarking Putin is “a social conservative” when it comes to his views on the media. “It seems like a mild description of his belief. That’s why they’re laughing,” Colbert pointed out.
One of the very first issues Stone addressed in this interview were the accusations he was “too cozy” with Putin and believed him “too easily.” He argued “you have to be polite” because he needed Putin’s cooperation, given the president’s “busy schedule.” He also claimed he took Putin’s denial of Russia interfering with the U.S. election “at face value because I’m not going to…this is an important point for him and he keeps insisting on it.”
Colbert didn’t let him off easily. “But no follow-up,” he said. “No follow-up on that question where he says, ‘Oh we didn’t do it,’ and you say, ‘Okay, great. See ya tomorrow.’ That doesn’t seem like an interview, that seems like an opportunity for him to merely propagandize.”
Stone promised he “pressed [Putin] on the election coming up for him for 2018” and “this issue of Mr. Trump, this whole hacking thing” in “the fourth hour.” When asked whether he trusts Putin after spending so much time with him, Stone, again, dodged the line of questioning.
“He’s a head of state. He’s Russian, he has his own interests of Russia, and I respect him for that and I understand why he’s doing — he’s a strong nationalist,” he said. “He went through a whole history of 16 years, since 2000 to now, outlining what [the] relationship with the U.S. has been, and I never heard him badmouth the U.S. I heard him try to reach out and have a relationship with [America].”
Watch the interview in the video above.