CBS’s Smith Reviews Oliver Stone Movie: ‘Phenomenal, Phenomenal Stuff’

Harry Smith and Oliver Stone, CBS As part of the promotion of his new Bush-bashing drama ‘W,’ director Oliver Stone appeared on Tuesday’s CBS Early Show and co-host Harry Smith gushed: "And there are so many interesting portrayals in this, we don't have time to go into them all...Stunning, stunning, stunning ...Phenomenal, phenomenal stuff." Smith even suggested that some people saw the movie as sympathetic to Bush, though not Smith himself: "People -- I was in a screening of this movie just yesterday. This person was walking out, 'my gosh it seemed so sympathetic.' I didn't feel that way, but your hearing that yourself I'm sure."

In response, Stone replied:

I hear it but I think there's a confusion between sympathy and empathy. Empathy means understanding, and as a dramatist it's my job to understand, to walk in the shoes of George W. Bush as best as I can...Sympathize, no. I do think he's hurt this country. I'm a Vietnam veteran. We should not have gone into the Iraq war. We were in three wars, not only Afghanistan and Iraq, but really the war on terror is a major war. You know, we've had an economic meltdown because of it, partly because of the overreach. And this country is in a very dire place and I'm not happy about it...But, you know, people voted for him.

Stone later added:

You know, it's easy to make fun of George Bush, and he's been an object of comedy for what -- 8 years we've made fun of him...But the truth is, you don't really know much about the man. People think they know him, they have opinions about him but they haven't really walked in his steps, they don't know what happened. Those first three, four years of the presidency were very veiled...Manufactured -- Karl Rove, they kept everything -- only in the last -- from about 2004 the books started to come little by little. Suskind, Woodward, they broke the ice.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:17AM TEASE:

JULIE CHEN: Coming up, director Oliver Stone on his controversial new movie about President Bush.

7:30AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Also ahead this morning, President Bush is not even out of office, already there is a movie about him. Controversial director Oliver Stone is going to join us here in the studio to talk about 'W.'

7:49AM TEASE:

SMITH: You know Oliver Stone, the big movie director, never makes a controversial movie.

CHEN: Never, no.

SMITH: Never ruffles any feathers. He has a brand new movie out, he's going to be in the studio live to talk to us in just a couple of seconds. Look at that, side-by-side pictures of Josh Brolin and President Bush, boy.

CHEN: Amazing.

SMITH: If you were going to blink you almost wouldn't know who's who. And there's a very interesting portrayal of 'W' from his young days in Texas, all the way to the White House. Talk to Oliver Stone about it in just a couple of minutes.

8:10AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: The life of a president is usually portrayed on film years after he has left office. But with the new movie 'W,' opening this Friday, Oscar winning director and screen writer Oliver Stone explores the presidency of George W. Bush while he's still in the White House.

[CLIP OF MOVIE 'W']

JOSH BROLIN [AS PRESIDENT BUSH]: I haven't made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. It's just I haven't -- you know, you really put me on the spot here, John. Maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one, but-

SMITH: And Oliver Stone joins us this morning. Good morning.

OLIVER STONE: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: You view this president as? Fill in the blank.

STONE: Well, I'm not the judge. I'm the dramatist, I'm putting out this story, it's one of the most incredible stories I've -- of the last 20 years. This guy who's an improbable president, he came from very strange roots. And he's shaped and changed the world in these last eight years in ways that were inconceivable. I mean, so he spoke for himself, the administration. It's not for me to -- you see the movie and you walk out and think about where we are now as a country, where we were eight years ago and I think you come to your own conclusion.

SMITH: People -- I was in a screening of this movie just yesterday. This person was walking out, 'my gosh it seemed so sympathetic.' I didn't feel that way, but your hearing that yourself I'm sure.

STONE: I hear it but I think there's a confusion between sympathy and empathy. Empathy means understanding, and as a dramatist it's my job to understand, to walk in the shoes of George W. Bush as best as I can.

SMITH: Right.

STONE: Sympathize, no. I do think he's hurt this country. I'm a Vietnam veteran. We should not have gone into the Iraq war. We were in three wars, not only Afghanistan and Iraq, but really the war on terror is a major war. You know, we've had an economic meltdown because of it, partly because of the overreach. And this country is in a very dire place and I'm not happy about it.

SMITH: Yeah, yeah.

STONE: But, you know, people voted for him.

SMITH: Who do you -- it's very interesting, because to make a decision to make a movie like this, Josh Brolin is doing an imitation of George Bush.

STONE: Not an imitation.

SMITH: How would you -- what would you call it?

STONE: I'd call it -- Josh is a wonderful actor. He comes from theater, he's 40-years-old and he's been through a tremendous life. Much failure, like George Bush, at the age of 40 and he turned it around, George Bush.

SMITH: Right.

STONE: So I think Josh is mature and I think he lived the role. He went into the role and he became-

SMITH: Because there are mannerisms that are certainly similar.

STONE: Some, but he didn't overdo it.

SMITH: Yeah.

STONE: You know, it's easy to make fun of George Bush, and he's been an object of comedy for what -- 8 years we've made fun of him.

SMITH: Right, right.

STONE: But the truth is, you don't really know much about the man. People think they know him, they have opinions about him but they haven't really walked in his steps, they don't know what happened. Those first three, four years of the presidency were very veiled.

SMITH: Right.

STONE: Manufactured -- Karl Rove, they kept everything -- only in the last -- from about 2004 the books started to come little by little. Suskind, Woodward, they broke the ice.

SMITH: The -- because this really is about who this person is.

STONE: Yeah, yeah that's the point.

SMITH: How he was formed, where he was formed. The Yale days. The relationship with his father. The relationship with his mother.

STONE: That's right.

SMITH: The relationship with his wife.

STONE: Yes, yes. Crucial to -- it's a character study because you wouldn't understand what happened on the march to Iraq, which is the climax of the movie. That's the third act. The first act is the recklessness of his youth, wild times, and the second act is that governorship of Texas, owning the baseball team. You see the seeds of the man, how he develops. When he becomes president for me that's where the tension really pays off.

SMITH: His religious redemption, stunning. Stacy Keach is that minister-

STONE: Stacy Keach-

SMITH: And there are so many interesting portrayals in this, we don't have time to go into them all.

STONE: We have about 15 character actors that are great in the movie. Jamie Cromwell is the father Ellen Burstyn's the mother.

SMITH: Stunning, stunning, stunning.

STONE: And don't forget Elizabeth Banks as Laura -- I think she did -- Laura Bush -- did a great job.

SMITH: Phenomenal, phenomenal stuff. Thanks very much for stopping by this morning.

STONE: Thank you, Harry.

SMITH: Do appreciate it, Oliver Stone.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC