Oliver Stone is no stranger to controversial topics -- or controversial films. In his latest, "Savages," he takes on the ongoing, bloody Mexican drug war. Kidnapping and violence erupt when a cartel attempts a hostile takeover of two stateside growers (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) and the girlfriend they share (Blake Lively).
How do you go about approaching such a real, current and deadly topic with a fictional film?
Well, we're based on a book, so this is not a "Traffic"-like approach docudrama about the situation. We really took on a hypothetical fiction. This movie was about a situation that could happen, but hasn't happened, which is that a cartel would move in on some niche, boutique growers -- independent growers who grow high-grade product here in the United States.
What are your own feelings about the drug war?
Well, you'd have to go back to 1969. Why do you have to declare a war on drugs? I didn't understand it, and I don't know why America loves the concept of war -- war in Vietnam, war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan. It's just endless wars. By fighting a war you put a huge amount of money in, the budgets go up and a lot of corruption ensues. That's the history of war. Not only that but America has screwed itself by creating a prison system that's out of control and a Drug Enforcement Agency that is well beyond insane in terms of creating scenarios.
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What about the prospect of marijuana legalization in the States?
I don't see much progress recently, with the Obama administration going against it. The California state laws are far more liberal and hopefully will prevail in the progressive movement, but with an election? Forget it. Stupidity rules. It's the lowest common denominator. At the very least, decriminalization. How about that? Let's empty the prison population, which is enormous in this country.
How much of a political point do you want this movie to make compared to your earlier films?
I really don't think like that. I just don't think about making political points. I don't have an agenda. The movies should work unto themselves. It becomes controversial sometimes; but frankly, I make stories. I make them exciting. I'm not trying to sell legalization here by any means because the story unfolds as it does.
When depicting this kind of violence on screen, how far do you take it?
Well, not too far because you have something called the R rating and you have a lot of Puritanism in this country about sexuality, so you cannot do things that you could do in European film. You also have actors who make certain personal choices in their life and they don't want to do certain things, but the book was pretty explicit. We couldn't exactly do that book because we wouldn't have gotten a rating. So I'm guided by my own sense of judgment, and hopefully taste, as to what an audience can stand. It's certainly not as realistic and violent as it really is, that's for sure. I mean, you could throw somebody in a barrel of acid, as a cartel has done, and watch them scream and yell as they die.