Olive Stone's W Biopic - What and Who?
by Kevin Powers
April 8, 2008
Most people know who Oliver Stone is (that's not him in the picture above - that's actually the real Bush). With multiple Oscars under his belt, Stone has clearly proven his mettle as a screenwriter, director and producer through such projects as Platoon, Wall Street, and Born on the Fourth of July. Even though they're from the 80s, these examples seem more memorable than most of Stone's recent work. (Plus, they're ones I watched with my dad as a kid.) And while I like Any Given Sunday and Natural Born Killers, each on their own respective level, I wonder what's happened to the guy. Alexander or World Trade Center, anyone? As of late there's been much news surrounding Stone's next lofty project - a biopic on President Bush titled W. However, the news isn't really centered on Stone targeting Bush, as much as it is the odd casting choices that continue to arise each week.
So what does this say about the famed filmmakers and his golden-years career? From what I've seen so far, I really have no interest in this film. Republican or Democrat aside, it's hard to argue that President Bush is a well-liked or respected guy at this point. So Stone's assertion that the picture will paint an objective (albeit empathetic) perspective of the 43rd President seems a bit disingenuous. "I want a fair, true portrait of the man. How did Bush go from an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world?… I'll also cover the demons in his private life, his bouts with his dad and his conversion to Christianity, which explains a lot of where he is coming from. It includes his belief that God personally chose him to be president of the United States, and his coming into his own with the stunning, preemptive attack on Iraq. It will contain surprises for Bush supporters and his detractors."
I think when it comes to Bush, it's either love or hate, and it'll be interesting to see how Stone molds this middle ground. Not that there's credibility to spare, however, in shaping this stance. Stone has been widely criticized for factual liberties he's apparently taken and historical inaccuracies with many of his films, ranging from JFK (the assassination of President Kennedy) to The Doors (Jim Morrison) to Nixon (the life of President Nixon).
This pattern seems to be bleeding into his W. project considering early reactions to the screenplay and those that have been cast to play America's leaders. The screenplay, now in its third draft, has been routed to a number of Bush biographers. The reaction seems mixed, though it's been stated that "the story contains inaccurate and over-the-top caricatures of Bush and his inner circle." You could go on and on about the minute details in the same way politicos go on and on about policy. One biographer plainly noted, "If Stone wants to portray this as an accurate accounting, he has some serious work to do."
Let's take a look at the full cast, both official and rumored, so far.
Josh Brolin as George W. Bush
Brolin's awesome and can pull off Southern and leadership pretty well, but he looks nothing like Bush. Not only that, but Brolin seems a bit too smart/talented to play him. Again, not to kick up sand, but Bush has a certain aloofness to him.
Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush
Umm…what? I guess this was meant as flattery to the First Lady, because Elizabeth Banks is not only super hot, but is also 30 years younger than Laura Bush. How did this happen?
Ellen Burstyn as Barbara Bush
This is a better choice, for sure, but again, Stone is certainly prettying up the Bush family.
James Cromwell as George Bush Sr.
Cromwell is probably the single best-fitting cast member so far. He can certainly pull off fatherly/presidential leadership. He was pretty good as Prince Phillip in The Queen a few years ago.
Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice
Umm…again, what? Thandie, while a joy a watch, doesn't exude authoritative intelligence (unless, of course, she's playing Dame Vaako), and is just too hot - the Secretary of State is a might bookish - to be a believable Rice. Stone should've gotten the sliver-tongued first lady from "24," Penny Johnson, instead.
Rob Corddry as Ari Fleischer
Just announced on April 9th via MTV - Rob Corddry will play press secretary Ari Fleischer.
Ioan Gruffudd as Tony Blair (Not 100% Official)
Not bad. Slim, clean-cut, eloquent and British. Seems to fit the bill.
Paul Giamatti as Karl Rove (Rumored)
This would work too. And it'd be great to see Giamatti opposite Brolin. For more information on the rumor, head to NYMag.com.
Robert Duvall as Dick Cheney (Rumored)
Surprisingly, despite the characters prominence to the administration, this character hasn't been cast yet. Rumors of Duvall taking on the role would seem to make sense for the film. For more information on the rumor, head to EW.com.
Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell (Rumored)
I can't think of anyone else better off the top of my head. Certainly, the visual is good, and Wright is great. For more information on the rumor, head to EW.com.
Tommy Lee Jones as Donald Rumsfeld (Rumored)
For more information on the Tommy Lee Jones rumor, head to Hollywood Elsewhere.
Though it's futile to hope, Stone should start by doing some work on the cast. Given that these characters are based on real-world people, you'd expect that they would at least somewhat resemble their physical counterparts. Now that you've seen his choices for the complete W. line-up, we want to hear your feedback! Are you encouraged by these casting choices?