It’s always a privilege to be in on these media conference calls, but all I needed to hear from Oliver Stone about his current film, “W,” came in a response to Fox’s Courtney Friel’s questions about his approach to the film.
“I just don’t think the Bush family believes in looking inside themselves, especially George W.,” said Stone. “Neither Freud nor Darwin seem to apply. He talks about psycho babble; so does his father. Jeb calls it ‘hooey’… you’re talking about a family that has no…introspection.”
While I agree with Mr. Stone’s assertion that the President appears in the media to be “aloof… in his body language and tone regardless of the circumstances,” I will also say that as one who’s twice had the privilege of being in small rooms with President Bush, I know from personal experience that he is more than introspective–he is even humble and self-aware in his introspection. But his introspection and self-reflection are based largely on his faith, rather than exit polls, media pundits, Freud, or Darwin. I think the problem lies not in his lack of introspection but in the fact that he has a different source for his guidance than Mr. Stone. And, of course, he doesn’t share that side of himself through the media. So Mr. Stone has decided to fill in the blanks sort of on his own.
I say “sort of,” because that’s the kind of language Stone himself has used describing the documentation behind “W.” “We took a few liberties with Bush’s malapropisms and some events, but most of them are on the record in some way,” he has said. On today’s call, he said “we’ve gotten some verification of some of these things.” That’s interesting, but it wouldn’t count as documentation for any of my kids’ term papers!
Many a commentator has opined about how George W. Bush will be viewed by history. “History,” as the saying goes, “depends upon he or she who writes it.”
Stone has been first to market with “W,” a view of history presented before the Bush presidency is even over. Yes, there have been books about our President and certain episodes of his presidency, but our culture tends to respond more widely to movies so I think “W” will have more of the people on the street talking.
After today’s call, I do find myself more curious to see the film but also more skeptical of what I’ll see. This, by the way, is directly opposite from what Stone and his media team would want from me, as he’s trying hard to suggest that he has brought a balanced and not-as-political a take to this movie.
“I must admit, I find as I get older, I get wiser but a little less incendiary,” Stone said recently. “It’s a tightrope to walk, it really is, but what I wanted to do was treat this guy compassionately.”
And those themes continued on today’s call: “This guy’s policies are going to be around for a long time. They’re going to talk about this guy Bush for a long time. My children are going to be talking about him, …like Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington…he’s had a tremendous impact.”
“Unless you learn from the past, you’re going to repeat it. You can look at Bush as the grandson of Nixon and the son of Reagan. This is a very serious moment.”
It is, and I hope we all view it as such. I hope those who haven’t had that privilege aren’t too skewed by just one–any one–person’s view of history.
To be fair, www.wthefilm.com gives the answers and annotations for each of the scenes, so people can find the underlying information and the sources which most of the film came…if they’re willing to put in that kind of effort!