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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Update: Rumors of war movie

Even before the start of the production of “W,” Oliver Stone’s forthcoming biopic on President Bush, script details are leaking out. Different news outlets have obtained and released snippets, kibbles and bits of an early draft script, apparently written by longtime Stone collaborator Stanley Weiser (“Wall Street”) last October.

It’s always a good idea to take such snatches of a movie scenario with many grains of salt. Considering the fluid, intuitive aspects of writing a screenplay, as well as the process of motion picture production — what may be the leading, most visible expression of groupthink in modern culture — it’s fair to say what’s been glimpsed is “subject to change.”

But some of these embryonic scenes may be illustrative of where Stone plans to go. The folks at Hollywood Reporter and Slate managed to get the whole thing. On Monday, Slate’s Juliet Lapidos offered synopses of scenes in the script:

Pages 21-22: After being accepted to Harvard Business School, W. downs a pint of Wild Turkey, drives onto the lawn of his parents' Washington, D.C., home, and challenges his daddy to a boxing match. George Sr. is pretty reasonable: "My advice to you — go to an AA meeting." George W. is pretty adolescent: "Thank you, Mr. Perfect. Mr. War Hero. Mr. Fucking-God-Almighty."

Pages 48-51: A "slightly snockered" W. nearly kills his friend Don Evans during a joy ride in a Cessna jet. Evans gets worried when the jet begins to wobble and shake; he asks W., "Tell the truth — this is the first time you've ever flown a Cessna, isn't it?" W.'s response: "This is how you learn. By doing. No need to ask a million questions." …

Pages 74-75: When British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he's concerned about "sectarian violence in the aftermath" of an Iraq invasion, W. tries to reassure him: "They'll be grateful for freedom, the last thing they'll want's 'nother war. Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, you know, in the end they'll stick together, they're all Muslims, anyway, (chuckling) and they gotta pray five times a day."

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The Hollywood Reporter also got first-blush reactions to the script from four biographers about the script's proximity to the facts. "It leaves you with the impression that the White House is run as a fraternity house with no reverence for hierarchy, the office itself or for the implications of policy," said Robert Draper, the author of "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush," to THR.

"Everybody calling everybody else nicknames and chatting about whether to go to war as if they were chatting about how to bet on a football game really misses the mark of how many White Houses, including this one, are run. …"

"This notion that his schedule is driven by what's on ESPN is ludicrous," Draper said.

Some other reactions seem to express surprise with the possibility that Stone's script might be over-the-top in its depiction of the 43rd president — something that comes as no surprise to anyone who saw Stone's "Nixon," a biopic treatment of Richard Nixon that had as many flights of fancy and departures from reality as Nixon himself.

But one scene, no matter how hyperbolic it might be, is a smart conflation of administration thinking before the Iraq war even started.

In an early part of the script, Bush meets with advisers in early 2002 and is challenged by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on the issue of uniting Iran and Iraq as terrorist threats — two parts of the three-legged stool that became the “axis of evil.” White House senior adviser Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley are in attendance:

But Mr. President, how are we going to tie them all together. It’s not like Germany, Italy and Japan — who were on the same side?

Yeah, they’re not aligned with each other.

Who gives a shit? It plays.

They may not be aligned. But they’re threats to our security. Iran and Iraq is trouble next door to trouble. And they have to know that this President is telling them that they’ve got a problem. With us.

Fiction has that funny way of taking us to the truth.
Image credit: BBC.com

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