The films of Oscar-winning writer/director Oliver Stone have often dramatized historic events and two of them have focused on former U.S. Presidents (Richard Nixon and John Kennedy). However, his latest production delves into current events as it portrays the life of the current Chief Executive. Alan Silverman has this look at the film simply titled W.
W. spans some four decades in the life of George W. Bush: from his frat party and cheerleader days at university through his various businesses and the beginnings of his political career in Texas and then into the White House and the momentous events of the past few years. Filmmaker Stone is no stranger to controversy … in fact, an "Oliver Stone conspiracy" has become a figure of speech sometimes used by news reporters; however, he insists this film does not have a hidden agenda.
"I have said repeatedly that I've tried to be fair and balanced and compassionate, above all, about this subject matter and not to take sides and not to be my political self, which is my private citizen side," Stone says. "I feel like I am a dramatist. This is what I do professionally and I try to keep it as a craft."
Josh Brolin plays George W. Bush and admits that he was daunted - 'afraid' is actually the word he uses - to take on the role.
"When Oliver first approached me I thought 'Why would you want to do a movie about that when we can watch this guy on CNN?' I had a very cosmetic view of Bush and Oliver, to be frank," Brolin admits. "Once I read the script I was amazed. Usually when you do a bio-pic you follow about 10 years of their life; you don't get to go from 21 to 58. After reading it I thought 'This is the greatest challenge an actor could ever have; can I live up to it?' So anything I did was based in fear of pulling it off."
Elizabeth Banks plays Laura Bush from the young librarian who meets the aspiring politician at a 1970's Texas barbecue through to First Lady. Banks says she is amused by how audiences are surprised that the film creates a sympathetic portrait of the President.
"I didn't think it was difficult to make him sympathetic," Banks explains. "I think what Oliver did really well in this movie is remind us that the office of the Presidency, no matter who is in it, is a really dramatic and difficult place to be. I think George Bush has provided us with a lot of fodder. I met George Bush. He told me he hates to watch himself on television. I think that's totally obvious. So I think when you think of the office of the Presidency and how difficult it is and how any of us would be in that spot, it is very easy to sympathize with him."
James Cromwell portrays the former U.S. President Bush and the current President's father. As he points out, the goal was not an impersonation, but to be a character in service of this story.
"People are not going to see George Herbert Walker Bush when they see me, but they are going to see a father and they are going to understand the dynamic that we're trying to establish to explicate the relationship and the effect it had on the son," Cromwell says.
Co-writer and director Stone says he hopes he made a film that, someday, the real life subject of the film will be able to watch.
"I think he would not, perhaps, in this present political state approve of this movie, but that is not the point," Stone says. "The point is I think the movie tries to understand him: the good, the bad and the ugly. We try to make him a human being."
W. also features Richard Dreyfuss as Vice President Cheney. Thandie Newton is Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice with Jeffrey Wright as former Secretary Colin Powell. Toby Jones plays political advisor Karl Rove and Ellen Burstyn portrays former First Lady Barbara Bush. The screenplay is co-written by director Oliver Stone and Stanley Weiser: the fourth film on which the two have collaborated.