Three time Oscar winning filmmaker Oliver Stone returns to the screen with the thriller “Savages” featuring the all star ensemble Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek and Demian Bichir. The film is based on Don Winslow’s best selling crime novel that was one of The New York Times’ top 10 books of 2010. “Savages” features multiple themes that recur in Stone’s movies: layered power struggles, shifting loyalties, examinations of the best and worst human nature, explorations of complex family relationships and a compelling look at damaged people, some of whom find their own kind of heroism.
At a recent press conference we had the opportunity to sit and speak with Oliver Stone about his latest film “Savages” where we asked his opinion in regards to the evolution of the film industry, how much research he did into the Mexican cartels and trafficking, encouraging his actors to argue with him, and casting Salma Hayek. Warning there are film spoilers below.
This film was actually shot on film and with the move to newer technologies where do you expect the industry to go from here?
Oliver Stone: I make a film like this every two years and every time I come back to it there’s always a new technology out there. Now with the projection system we are moving to everything being digital because it’s more consistent and just better then film print projection. The consistency of film print projection was widely variable, I would go to theaters in Texas and Alabama and you sometimes wouldn’t see the movie, there were just mistakes. The irony of the whole situation is that film with out a doubt is about 15 to 20 percent better then digital, in it’s range, in it’s blacks, the depth of it. When you see this movie the colors pop. My eyes play off film and you never know what’s going to happen because your eye does wander. There is something in the film stock that you can’t get from digital. I really feel strongly that we got to keep making movies on film, I don’t think it’s going to go away.
You decided to have two endings in this film I was just wondering what the motivations was behind that?
Oliver Stone: I wouldn’t say there are two endings but there are a lot of twist and turns in this film. I would say there is a romantic way out which I would say is from the book which is very much in the girls head. Would you take your life to join your lover, that was the notion in the book and if you accept that, you can live with the first ending. I personally can’t, I see the world a bit more realistically and I love the ending in the book because it reminds me of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid”. But I do think the drug world and the drug deals go on and on and on. There was never a thought about choosing one ending over the other, that’s the way the girl would have wanted it to end in her loopy head. I think the whole film is an argument for love, Salma sets her straight and tells her how can both these guys love you, they love each other more.
You had a lot of Mexican facts in this film, how extensive and factual was your research?
Oliver Stone: I did go to Mexico and I did talk to a few people who are heavy down there on both sides of the fence. But this is a hypothetical fiction, this is not “Traffic” which was a wonderful movie but it’s much more documentary like. This hasn’t happened yet and you can imagine much worse and you can also imagine that there hasn’t been that much violence on this side of the boarder yet. These cartels are here and they are growing, they may have deals in California because some of the best laboratories in the world are here. We do have an independent growers market here which is like a boutique business and they’re very good people, they grow great stuff. Best I’ve ever had in 40 years.
Did you think that the priest are involved in this type of corruption in Mexico too?
Oliver Stone: I’m not going to make accusations but I am going to say, what was clear to me while I was in Mexico were two things. One was the connection between the money and the political parties, there’s too much money in Mexico, a huge amount. It’s washing around and they need to put it in a legitimate economy. When you hear that one party will favor one cartel or this cartel it just doesn’t stick. When they elected Calderon it was just a disaster, he was equivalent to George Bush and that party stoled the election. He brought what George Bush brought to our country, a war, Calderon brought a war to Mexico. Four cartels became seven cartels and there’s more violence now then before. I hope the new guys is pragmatic and decriminalizes the country.
Mr. Stone Blake said that you like your actors to argue with you.
Oliver Stone: Every actors is a lawyer for his own defense and a good actor would be thinking, feeling, and questioning their character. Blake was most aggressive in questioning everything in the script because she was different then the concept in the book. She reminds me of a Meryl Streep at that age when she was starting out and if events are good for her she can go all the way, she’s got the chops.
Oliver how was it working with Salma, she said that you gave her a large amount of freedom when it came to creating her character, did you have any control?
Oliver Stone: I had no choice, she’s an active will. She’s tough coming from Mexico and arriving here and not speaking much english. I meet her years ago when I did “U-Turn” and she said you son of a bitch you didn’t even see me and you gave the part to Jennifer Lopez. I was stunned because I didn’t know her and 15 years later I went right t o her and I said this is the one. I wanted Salma and I wrote her a note, Universal asked if she was tough enough and I said don’t worry she’s tough, now Jennifer Lopez is going to come after me. She has a heart in the movie and she has a large Latin fixation for family.
“Savages” is in theaters July 6th.