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Oliver Stone: Bush legacy 'a hard one to live down'

  • Story Highlights
  • Director insists "W." presents "a fair portrait of the man," is empathetic
  • Bush's "rivalry to be stronger than his father" helped prompt Iraq war, Stone says
  • Stone says he is anti-war, has concerns about torture, "stripping of liberties"
  • "W.," a biopic of President Bush, hits theaters Friday
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(CNN) -- President Bush is "a disgrace, frankly," film director Oliver Stone said Wednesday, two days before the release of his biopic on the 43rd U.S. president.

Actor Josh Brolin, who plays George W. Bush, appears at Tuesday's New York premier of the movie.

Director Oliver Stone says he believes the timing was right for his upcoming film, "W."

Stone, who has endorsed Democratic Sen. Barack Obama for president, seems to thrive on controversy, and his latest foray into filmmaking, "W.," will likely hold true to form.

In an interview with CNN's Kiran Chetry, Stone discussed the rationale behind the release date, his troubles securing financing for the film, and why he thinks President Bush's relationship with his father, President George H.W. Bush, played a role in the decision to invade Iraq.

Kiran Chetry: We had a chance to see the screening of this movie and I want to ask you a little bit about the timing. This is coming out three weeks before our 2008 presidential election. Why did you want to it come out now?

Oliver Stone: Those events are beyond my control. We made the movie as fast as we could starting last May. If I couldn't have completed it, it would have come out in January perhaps for the inauguration. It's not about this election. It's about the last eight years with one man, George W. Bush. It's his story, how he became the man that he is, how we elected him -- basically, if you start to think about it, where we are now as a country. Video Watch Stone discuss why he finds Bush "fascinating" »

Chetry: Is it an anti-war movie?

Stone: Of course it's an anti-war movie, because I happen to be an anti-war person. That's not to say I'm a pacifist. I believe you fight for the right reasons. This man has us in three wars right now -- Iraq, Afghanistan, and basically, the war on terror. We have a foreign policy which is a very preventive one, a pre-emptive one. It's a Bush doctrine. It's a very dangerous place. Whoever wins the election, Obama or McCain, I think is going to live in the shadow of the events of these last eight years. This man ... will be around, his influence will be felt for 20 years, 40 years.

Chetry: What did you want viewers of your movie to come away with?

Stone: ... I can't control that. We made the movie to make people think, to make themselves feel, to walk in the shoes of George Bush and to understand him. This is not a job done with malice. This is a fair portrait of the man. I think it's empathetic. You care for him and your feelings for him. An activist said, "I never thought I could feel something for George Bush. I came out of this movie feeling compassionate for him, and even more important, feeling compassion for our country and where we are now."

Chetry: You had trouble getting financing because people felt it was too, I guess, sympathetic for the president.

Stone: Not for that reason. No, I think that the issues that we had with the American corporations were essentially that it was an inconvenient subject. They thought, he's gone from office, and they don't want to know, and he's controversial, and blah, blah, blah. These are corporations -- large corporations. They're not going to take risks like this. So, the movie business you've got to make movies with risks, and unfortunately, America's moving away from that in all forms, not just movies.

Chetry: It's very interesting. You had a soliloquy, a great monologue, by the character playing Vice President Dick Cheney ... about the rationale for Iraq. It was very detailed and it's safe to say you didn't have Dick Cheney's cooperation. Where did you compile some of these scenes, some of these dialogues from those scenes?

Stone: [Writer] Stanley Weiser and myself did a lot of research. There's not much known about the first [George W.] Bush administration, the first few years. It's coming out gradually from ["Price of Loyalty" author Ron] Suskind and ["The Bush Tragedy" author Jacob] Weisburg, and it's coming out gradually. We're finding out about oil and the secret meeting. It is supposition. There are geopolitics involved. There are other issues at stake. We're trying to do justice. We allowed Cheney to speak for himself and [former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to speak for himself. And [former Secretary of State Colin] Powell, by the way, is the guy that argues with Cheney in that scene. Will you see 'W.'?

Chetry: You say President Bush changed the world. Is it something you believe is permanent?

Stone: Put it this way: We have practically an $800 billion Pentagon budget every year. That's a huge amount -- the amount of the bailout right there. Are we going to be in a state of reaction in force for everything that happens? Is it an us-versus-them foreign policy? Of course, I'm very concerned about the Constitution and about the stripping of liberties, torture, Guantanamo. Do you want the whole list? This guy ... he's a disgrace, frankly. And his legacy is going to be a hard one to live down. But I hope we take steps in the positive direction. And I am an optimist.


Chetry: Variety's review said Oliver Stone's "W." feels like a rough draft, that it may behoove to make in 10 or 15 years. They say it lacks an ending because we don't have time as perspective. Did we need some more time?

Stone: I think the film is quite satisfying in that it shows you the marks for Iraq. It ends at the moment he goes to war. We know how things turn out. It's not a film about those eight years. It's a film about the character of a man. There's a first act when he's in his 20s, a second act in his 40s and the third act when he's in his mid-50s. It's a character study and we get to the place at which we know the way he's going to behave. It's a father-son story because a lot of his actions are motivated by, let's call it, rivalry to be stronger than his father. And that's part of the reason he goes to Iraq.

All About Oliver StoneGeorge W. BushU.S. PoliticsIraq War

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