‘I’m a dramatist. I can’t take sides’
IN A WEEK when Cannes Lions delegates have marvelled over the creation of a new Rembrandt painting, wouldn’t it be great if we could also clone Oliver Stone?
Now 69, the Oscar-winning director, screenwriter and producer has emerged as one of the most important critics and commentators of our time through films such as Salvador, Platoon, Born On The Fourth Of July and JFK.
In the Lunch Is For Wimps session hosted by Guardian News & Media, Stone discussed the process that led to his latest project, Snowden. The film tells the story of whistleblower Edward Snowden, who caused a global sensation when he leaked highly classified information from the US’ National Security Agency in June 2013. Portrayed by much of the media as a spy or a traitor, Stone told delegates that Snowden’s story is actually a commentary on state surveillance “that goes beyond our worst expectations… beyond anything George Orwell imagined”.
Stone was unable to gain support from any US film studio for the project, so turned to French and German backers. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden is now being tipped as an Oscar contender. “It’s very realistic and adheres to the facts that we had at the time,” he said. “But it’s also a gripping thriller.”
Stone is often portrayed as a kneejerk controversialist, who favours liberal political rhetoric over the truth. But he denies the charge, which he said is often levelled by people who haven’t seen his movies: “I’m a dramatist. I can’t take sides. I do a lot of research and tell the story that evolves. With my films on Nixon and Bush, I actually had complaints that I was too sympathetic.”
Hailing from a Republican upbringing, Stone used to “parrot” the views of his father. “It wasn’t until my 40s, when I saw what Ronald Reagan was doing in Central America, that my views changed. My concern is that the US didn’t learn any lessons from Vietnam. We have to stop going in search of monsters abroad.”