It s an improbable story about a simple man who somehow becomes the most powerful leader in the world, says director Oliver Stone about his new movie W, a biopic of the current US president.
And always the provocateur, Stone is due to release the movie on Oct. 17, fewer than three weeks before the nation votes to decide who should collect the keys of the White House from President George W. Bush.
But Stone, who at 62 is the same age as Bush, insisted the biopic was not a hatchet job, contrary to expectations that it will depict the US leader, whose approval ratings have plummeted to historic lows, in a negative light.
W is a fair portrait, argued Stone, who went to Yale University at the same time as Bush in the mid-1960s, before dropping out to serve in Vietnam.
Instead the director, whose previous films include the political biography Nixon and the satire on American violence Natural Born Killers, said he wanted to shed some light on Bush s true character and his story.
Fifty million people voted for him on two occasions, Stone told AFP. He was in the same league for a long time as Ronald Reagan, until he became so offensive.
He told USA Today he had tried to stay human to this man. People get me confused with my outspoken citizen side. But I m a dramatist first and foremost.
I am not interested in that radical 15 percent that hate Bush or the 15 or 20 percent who love Bush, he said.
That s not our audience. Those people probably won t come. I m interested in that 60 percent in the American middle who at least have a little more open mind.
In the much anticipated movie, Stone revisits the tumultuous youth of a man who came from a wealthy, oil family and whose father, George H. Bush, was also president.
When news broke that W was in production, Stone told the movie industry newspaper Variety that he wanted to get behind the man, to paint a personal portrait, and to answer the central question: How did Bush go from an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world?
Bush, a former Texas governor, has never hidden the fact that he once battled alcoholism, but says he quit after a particularly heavy night on his 40th birthday in 1986 and has not touched a drop since.
He was elected to his first term in a disputed election in 2000 when he narrowly beat Democrat Al Gore, and won a second term in 2004 over John Kerry.
But his eight years in office have been scarred by the trauma of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and weighed down by the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the legacy of a bloody, costly war which will be inherited by his successor.
Actor Josh Brolin portrays the 43rd president with a realism that he brought to 2007 s acclaimed Coen brothers thriller No Country For Old Men, and actress Elizabeth Banks fills the role of First Lady Laura Bush.
The movie was made for $30 million – relatively cheap by modern movie standards. Millions of dollars were shaved off the budget with tax cut incentives from filming in Shreveport, Louisiana.
It was also made quite quickly. Stone brought the movie from draft script to release in less than 12 months.
But Stone told AFP it was not an easy process. Nobody wanted to finance this film. Every studio said no. You’d be surprised to know the number of people in the business who don’t want to have their name associated with politics. This thing almost never got made.
Stone has often chosen to recount pivotal moments in American history through his movies. He has confronted the Vietnam War in Platoon, the Kennedy assassination in JFK, President Richard Nixon s disgraced resignation in Nixon and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in World Trade Center.
He has won three Oscars: best screenplay for Midnight Express in 1979, and best director in 1987 and 1990 for Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July. -AFP