Award-winning screenwriter and director Oliver Stone did just that with his latest political film W., based on the life and career of President George W. Bush.
Stone is not new to the historical or political film genre; in fact, his filmography is riddled with Academy Award-winning Vietnam War films, documentaries on Cuba and presidential biopics.
As a veteran of the Vietnam War himself, Stone is most well-known for his series of Vietnam-era films, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, and Heaven & Earth.
After a script leak, The Washington Post released a biting article claiming that JFK contained many instances of false information, including the events surrounding the death of flight instructor David Ferrie, a “prime target” in District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation of the assassination.
A spookily similar situation occurred during the filming of W., raising critics’ concerns that Stone’s latest will follow in the footsteps of JFK‘s.
After the script appeared on the Internet, multiple scenes from the early draft were ridiculed by Bush scholars. According to Entertainment Weekly, Stone’s portrayal of Bush is “as a foul-mouthed, reformed drunk obsessed with baseball, Saddam Hussein and the conflicted relationship with his dad.
Beyond personality caricatures, critics also accused many scenes of containing inaccuracies. Most consistently scorned are White House scenes in which Stone portrays war discussions “like a football game,” describes The Hollywood Reporter.
Also, as Stone is wont to do (like in 1995’s Nixon), the director dances along the line between fact and fiction.
Not long before Nixon‘s theatrical release, the Nixon family accused Stone of an inaccurate representation of the president’s childhood and personal life.
The Bush family has not yet uttered a word against the film. Though, according to Bush experts, Stone’s portrayal seems to be following the same path as his previous films.
Aspects of Bush’s character and personal life, such as his alcoholism and use of nicknames for his Cabinet members, are often exaggerated beyond recognition. Does the President really refer to Karl Rove as Turdblossom? Or Colin Powell as Balloon Foot?
For those moviegoers who find no interest in Bush, perhaps the large and varied cast will catch their attention. The stars include Elizabeth Banks, Thandie Newton, Ioan Gruffudd, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Burstyn and leading man, Josh Brolin.
In W. Brolin is unrecognizable as Mr. President. To prepare for his role Brolin practiced both Bush’s “vocal style” and gait, which changed over the years and differed by location, according to Brolin.
With all the hype surrounding this film, one can only hope that Brolin will channel his Oscar-worthy role as Texan Llewelyn Moss into an Academy Award-winning Texan President.
Beyond Stone’s reputation and large cast, the biggest concern for W. is viewer interest. With Bush’s approval ratings down around 25%, the odds are not many moviegoers will see this flick because they actually like the President. Does America really need a recap of the royal mess that is the post-9/11 U.S.?
With three months left in office, the majority of the population is looking beyond Bush and toward a future with either Obama or McCain or a third party candidate.
While Stone claims that W. will be a “fair” representation of Bush’s life, he has also compared the film’s genre to Shakespeare’s Henry IV, with “a little bit of history, a little drama, [and] a little comedy.”
Ironically enough, Bush’s early life does somewhat resemble that of Henry IV‘s Hal, the scorned Prince of Wales, who spends much of his time drinking in taverns with lowlifes.
While literature buffs may find the comparison amusing, those interested in political and historical accuracy might be better off saving their nine bucks on Oct. 17 when W. hits theaters.