President Bush surely won’t be running out to the octoplex when “W.” opens tomorrow. But he should be happy that director Oliver Stone has cut him one break. Stone has Dubya pounding back Jack Daniels in his hard-partying youth, but he drew the line at claims that the future President snorted cocaine.
“We were not interested in proving he did coke,” Stone told us at Tuesday’s premiere. “By his own admission, he was excessive. So you don’t have to go to the edges.”
Stone does seem to buy into rumors that Bush, or someone acting on his behalf, arranged for a former Bush girlfriend to have an abortion. In one scene, George H.W. Bush, played by James Cromwell, chides his son, played by Josh Brolin, about a girl “shooting her mouth off about you knocking her up.” Poppy goes on to promise he’ll “take care” of the problem.
Hustler publisher Larry Flynt spent a lot of money trying to prove the abortion story, but couldn’t nail it down. Still, Stone feels the episode is factual, though he notes, “We never specify who the girl is.”
Stone goes out of his way in the psychologically probing movie to show Dubya’s determination to win the approval of his dad. “We tried to show the mind-set that led us,” he said. “A lot of people voted for him because he projected strength and still does.”
Though Stone portrays Bush as tongue-tied and out of his depth, some Democrats at the premiere felt the film goes too easy on him. “Look,” he argued, “there’s something about him that America identified with, and that’s why they voted for him. It’s not fair to jump on him now and say he was a complete failure.”
Richard Dreyfuss, who plays Dick Cheney, was less forgiving.
“He’s the worst President in the history of the country,” he told us. “I think the system didn’t work, and I think he escaped the bullet.”
Elizabeth Banks, who plays First Lady Laura Bush, said: “A lot of people ask why was she attracted to him. People aren’t always attracted to their equal. They’re attracted to their complement. Someone took out a picture of the young George Bush with his shirt off. He was a young buck. She wanted to [bleep]! It was the ’70s.”
Brolin admitted that he was ready to pass on the script when Stone first sent it “because of what I thought it would be. I was very wrong. The character, his humanity, was very important to me. … [The film] allows us to better educate ourselves on the last eight years – and hopefully, what not to do in the future.”