Fierman: What the hell happened with the script leak last fall? I mean, I got a copy of that script, Oliver. It took one e-mail.
Stone: That wasn’t a media strategy. That was an outrageous leak by a company called Participant. One of their assistants was trying to make a few bucks, and he sold it, and then it was everywhere. There were articles everywhere destroying it, historians trashing what we’d done. We didn’t want that. All because of an assistant. Christ.
Fierman: Doesn’t that kind of thing just come along with the words “Oliver Stone, Bush Movie”?
Stone: “An Oliver Stone movie” has been a cross to bear for years. I don’t know why, because my form always fits the function of every movie. Alexander is as different as World Trade Center as this is from those two. This is a different man; he’s not as dark or deep as someone like Nixon. The style is a time trip through three different eras, to give you a sense of young, middle, and old. It’s light.
Fierman: Wait, are you saying this movie is a comedy?
Stone: Well, it has to be done with an ebullience and a certain fun, because the guy is goofy. He’s a goofball! And I think he endeared himself to people because he couldn’t get anything right. Kubrick was an idol of mine. I grew up on Strangelove and movies like Network, and they made a big impact on me. So yeah, W. is a satire.
Fierman: What was it like shooting in Shreveport, in the middle of one of the reddest of red states?
Stone: I enjoyed it. But Shreveport at night? No fun. They all got arrested the last night there, you know.
Fierman: Yeah, I was getting to that. How the hell do you end up with Brolin and Wright in jail?
Stone: Oh, we were all having champagne on the set to say good-bye–it was nine thirty at night–and then we all went off to get loaded. The cops came to this bar. They arrested Jeffrey Wright because the bartender had a hair up his ass about this uppity black man from the North. And contrary to reports, he was not drunk. I was there. He was arrested because he had words with the cops. As for Brolin? It was the first night he had had a couple of drinks the whole time we were shooting. He had been sober for five months for the role, so he let loose a little bit and they got him, too.
Fierman: How do you market this movie? I know that’s not your problem, but it’s gotta be a concern.
Stone: It doesn’t seem to be a problem! You’re here! [laughs] It’s taking care of itself.
Fierman: The controversy doesn’t hurt either.
Stone: I don’t need controversy. If anything, I’ve had too much. It simplifies me. It trivializes me, frankly. Do you like Oliver Stone? Do you hate Oliver Stone? Worst movie ever. Best movie ever. It’s all opinion. At the end of the day, you know every movie I made, I made for my reasons, and I never compromised, ever. [pause] Except maybe on Alexander.
Fierman: It seems to me that between this and World Trade Center, you seem to be grappling with the idea of 9/11 as a historical aberration that allowed domestic horror to happen.
Fierman: That’s exactly right. That’s it — 9/11 is the flame. When 9/11 happened, I knew it was an overreaction. I knew it. We went fucking nuts.
Fierman: Are you guys going to finish in time?
Stone: Honestly, I don’t know. We’re going to try like hell. I have to finish and lock by September 17, and we just wrapped. So it’s a real push. If we miss it, it’s not the end of the world: We’d miss the election, but he’d still be in office. But honestly, I feel like I did on Alexander. I got rushed. Warner Bros. had Troy ready to strike in May, and they thought we’ll just follow up with Alexander in November. And I had to make that date for marketing reasons.
And if I was smart, I would have just given them what they wanted, because they wanted a sexless Alexander with not much violence. They wanted Troy II. If I had the guts, I would have done the Sergio Leone three-hour cut for Europe and butchered it for Warner Bros. And I would have taken out the homosexuality, which is what Warners really objected to.
Fierman: Yeah. I heard that you guys aren’t exactly on good terms about that.
Stone: Did I ever tell you the story of the ten-page commentary I got with about ten days to deliver from the editor? It was all these suggestions. It was unbelievable. It’s a classic. One day when I finally donate my papers, the world will see it. But I should have done what they wanted. It would have been a smarter move. It really would. That would have been the Peckinpah move, but I didn’t have that foresight. There are heroes out there, the Terry Gilliams of the world, who take on the studio system. But it’s hard to do. Warners has banned me, you know.
Fierman: You’re not serious. Is that explicit?
Stone: Oh yes. They have told my people that they don’t want to work with me again. I should have just said, “Okay, guys, go for it. Just make your cut.” And it would have been a much shorter, truncated film, and who knows, it might have made more than $32 million. It might have made fifty-two. Eighty-two. Who knows? You don’t have any idea how big an issue the homosexuality was. Especially when it comes to a military movie.
Fierman: Is the My Lai massacre movie you were making before W. dead?
Stone: Pinkville? It can probably only come back if UA would give us the movie without paying them the money they’ve already spent. We started to make the movie. I mean, we built a whole village in Thailand! We have tons of stuff sitting in crates! There’s $6 million against the movie. And I don’t have that kind of money. They didn’t even pay all the bills. They stuck us with a bunch of them.
Fierman: Is your sense that they got cold feet on the project and used the writers’ strike as the excuse?
Stone: Yes, of course that’s what happened. First they kept cutting our budget. We had our locations, we had our actors, we had everything picked out, and it was a very reasonable plan. Then Bruce Willis walked, and they were thrilled, because that gave them the final excuse to call it, even though we got Nicholas Cage. That was three weeks before shooting and right before Christmas. Let me remind you, that’s 120 Americans and 500 Thais put out of work right before Christmas. It was a cruel, heartless decision, and it was probably made because [UA’s] Lions for Lambs was perceived as a mess, a failure, and we were linked to these Iraq movies that weren’t working.
The irony, of course, is that Pinkville is only about Iraq in a Holy Ghost-type way. It’s about the roots of Iraq, without being too close to it. It’s not a war movie. It’s JFK meets Platoon. It was about an investigation into the past and how the nature or man covers up evil. And I have UA going on and on about “Do the bad guys have to be Americans?”
Fierman: In a movie about the My Lai massacre?
Stone: I mean, GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK! American soldiers, I mean, American soldiers are sacred? Come on! I’m saying this as a veteran. I’ve been to war. There are a lot of bad guys in the army.
Fierman: What do you think about what’s happening at the box office right now?
Stone: It’s all about the muscularization of film. Comics changed everything. It’s movies on steroids. I mean, look at Transformers. That made a fortune, but it’s incomprehensible! Maybe I’m too old for it.
Fierman: Oliver, I grew up on Transformers. It’s not just incomprehensible, it’s incoherent.
Stone: Oh, okay! It’s not just me! [laughs] And I’m sure this sequel will be huge, and it will be a franchise. So where do I fit? Thank God for people like the Coen brothers. Those movies get made occasionally, but they’re still hard to get made. No Country was turned down [domestically] by Paramount Vantage. They didn’t want it! I heard this story a long time ago, that John Lesher [president of Paramount Film Group] wanted to get rid of it. And that’s a good movie. Why would you want to get rid of it?
Now think about W. The first reaction across the board was “Who cares about this guy? Everybody hates him, and he’s finished anyway. What’s the relevance of this project?” And my answer is that it’s one of the most fascinating stories of recent times. Whatever you think of him, he’s a great story, and secondly his impact is enormous, because his policies are not over in ’08. It’s going to go on and on.
Fierman: Oh no. The damage this guy has done is generational in its scope.
Stone: Well, call it consequences. The consequences of his actions are enormous. We’re never going to go back to 2000. That’s a different country. We’re into another thing, and we have to deal with where we are now.