From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum and Abby Livingston
Director Oliver Stone spoke to reporters this morning about his movie W., a biopic on President Bush's rise to the presidency and his role in the lead-up to the Iraq War.
Stone, director of JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Nixon and Platoon, has been the subject of fierce criticism for occasionally taking artistic license in his previous efforts. With that track record, releasing an often-unflattering film about a sitting president at the height of the political season has put Stone squarely under the political hot lamp.
Citing his reasons for creating the movie, which started production in 2002, Stone called Bush one of the greatest stories of last 40 years. "Bigger than Reagan, bigger than Nixon and his impact on this country," Stone said. "You'd have to go back a long way to find a president with this impact."
Calling the narrative of Bush's life "stranger than fiction," Stone said that his administration overshadows the 2008 presidential elections. "I think it is a bigger issue than this election. I really, in my heart, think that this guy's policies are going to be around for a long time. And my grandchildren are going to be talking about this guy Bush like the way they talk about Teddy Roosevelt, the way they talk about Lincoln, the way they talk about Washington. I think he's had monumental impact on the future of this country."
Stone, who is an Obama supporter, stood by the script's use of quotes often taken out of context throughout the film. "As a dramatist, we have to simplify and condense," he said. "And I don't think we crossed the line, the spirit of what happened in that administration. The Bush administration speaks for itself."
"I'm not writing a biography," Stone continued. "I'm not a journalist, never claimed to be. Nor am I a documentarian."
Furthering his own defense, Stone referenced a film review by Wayne Slater, a Texas journalist who has followed "W's" political rise since its infancy. Slater notes that one of the most painful, buffoonish scenes in the film was actually taken verbatim from a transcript of an actual Bush press conference.
Stone also stood by his choice to release the film before the end of Bush's presidency. "Gratuitous, absolutely not," said Stone. "This is a very serious matter, because unless you learn from the past, you are going to repeat it, whether it's this year or in ten years."
"If they would like to screen the film with me, or one of them would, I would most glad and gracious to do it," he added, offering to travel to visit the subject of his cinematic portrait. "But it's very hard, I know, to see a movie about yourself."