Bush experts dissect Oliver Stone's screenplay

Tue Apr 8, 2008 3:51am EDT
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By Stephen Galloway and Matthew Belloni

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - President George W. Bush is a foul-mouthed, reformed drunk obsessed with baseball, Saddam Hussein and the conflicted relationship with his dad. At least that's how he's portrayed in the script for Oliver Stone's upcoming feature "W."

But how accurate is that depiction?

As the film preps for its April 21 start date, The Hollywood Reporter sent a copy of the screenplay to four Bush biographers for their comments. The draft is dated October 17, 2007, and has recently been circulated to talent, though a person close to the film said the script has since gone through at least two drafts.

Naturally, what a director does with a script is how a movie ultimately is judged, but because this screenplay depicts a sitting president and the run-up to the war in Iraq, its authenticity is becoming a hotly debated subject -- not to mention the fact that any historical material Stone has touched has become controversial.

Reactions to the script from the biographers were mixed. They said specific scenes are largely based in fact but noted that the screenplay contains inaccurate and over-the-top caricatures of Bush and his inner circle.

"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, author of "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush." "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."

Jacob Weisberg ("The Bush Tragedy") was skeptical about Stone's claim that he wants to make "a fair, true portrait" of Bush. "His saying he is going to be fair to Bush is like Donald Trump saying he is going to be modest," Weisberg quipped.

"W," which is set to begin filming in Shreveport, La., stars Josh Brolin and James Cromwell as Bush 43 and 41, respectively. The film is being closely watched in entertainment and political circles, in part because Stone has said his goal is to release it while Bush is still in office and possibly in time for the November election.   Continued...

<p>Film-maker Oliver Stone is interviewed at a news conference in Santa Monica, California May 3, 2007. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>