EmptyDirector Oliver Stone threw his hat into this year's U.S. presidential race with the release of "W.," his examination of the career of George W. Bush. But with Bush relegated to the sidelines during the hotly contested election, "W.," which grossed $26 million domestically, didn't stir up the controversy that surrounded Stone's previous presidential forays such as "JFK" and "Nixon." The director has since been touring with the film as it rolls out internationally — it opens the Dubai International Film Festival on Thursday — and, given Bush's lack of popularity abroad, again finds himself in his accustomed position: right on the firing line. Stone spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the movie's design and its reception.Oliver Stone: I wanted to make a movie about Bush since 2001 when he assumed power. He started to change things even before 9/11. I think he had a tremendous impact on our nation and the world, perhaps greater than that of Nixon and Reagan combined. I would have done the film a year earlier if I could have, but I have to say it wasn't possible because of circumstances and also because the research did take a year. Stanley Weiser (wrote) it in 2006 and 2007. We tried to get it up in December (of last year). We moved as fast as we could. We shot it in May, and we just finished it in time for October and barely made it.
Stone: Dealing with the issue of his character was the key. We decided to divide his life into three acts: The young man, the middle-age man and the president. Act one, to put it in broadly mythic terms, would be the prodigal son tale. Act two would be the prodigal son returns, but he is not so good. And act three would be the Icarus myth worked out: The father builds the wings that the son melts when he flies too high.
Stone: In choosing the one thing in his presidency, where the seeds of the man culminate in the third act, it's the march to Iraq. In that action lies all the problems of the son, and they become evident: His willful manipulation of the truth, his determination to outdo his father.
Stone: I view him personally as a John Wayne figure. Wayne was ready to nuke Hanoi. At the same time, onscreen you have to say you liked the guy. He had a certain cowboy attitude, that you never back down. That's the reason people don't like Bush. He never apologizes, he never said, "I'm wrong." He never said, "I thought about it, I made a mistake." But in a movie sense, they kind of like that in Americans. There is a strange story here. It's a mirror for America.
Stone: I really think people in America are perhaps a little bit blase and glazed over by it. They are Bush-tired, so to speak. I do think we hit a tough spot in the zeitgeist. I really felt that on Sept. 16. All of a sudden the economy moved in like this big, black fucking cloud and poured rain on everything. It made Bush, because of his misbehavior and his response to it, so irrelevant to the conversation that he literally looked like the guy at the end of "The Wizard of Oz." He literally faded away. In our psyches, he died, which was an interesting phenomenon, and it happened the month before we opened the movie.
Stone: They don't like him. I was hoping by going out and thumping for the movie that it would break some of the ice. But the ice is big here. Bush lost them a long time ago. He presented a terrible picture of America. I couldn't believe the hatred for Bush in France and in England. Why am I going to the Middle East? It's probably a suicide mission. They hate him, too. But that's all the more reason to go. (partialdiff)