Three-time Academy Award winner Oliver Stone—the Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient who made some of Hollywood’s greatest antiwar movies—was interviewed on the anniversary of D-Day at his Santa Monica office. The hallmark of Stone’s cinematic oeuvre has been artistically creating counternarratives, which has pitted him against not only government forces but also the mainstream media. In 1986, when President Ronald Reagan pursued the Iran-Contra covert operation Stone showed the other side of the story in Central America in the riveting Salvador. Later that year and in 1989, with the Vietnam-set Best Picture Oscar winner Platoon and Best Picture nominee Born on the Fourth of July, Stone took on militarism with his war-is-hell classics. While Reagan ballyhooed unbridled capitalism, in 1987’s Wall Street Stone questioned the “greed is good” ethos. Perhaps most memorable is Stone’s demolishing of the Warren Commission Report in 1991’s JFK, implicating US intelligence agents in the Kennedy assassination. And in his colossal 796-minute 2012 documentary series, Untold History of the United States, Stone compellingly presented an alternative view of the Cold War and more.
Now Stone is back with The Putin Interviews. As the intelligence community, Congress and press investigate alleged Russian tampering with the US presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign and presidency, Stone, using his rare access to the Russian president, dares show Vladimir Putin’s side of the story. During an in-depth interview with The Nation, Stone took the long view of history and stressed he was often expressing what he understood to be Putin’s perspectives. We talked about Edward Snowden, the new McCarthyism, Syria, Donald Trump, Ukraine, MSM, Hillary Clinton, Julian Assange, Bernie Sanders, the Cold War redux, Megyn Kelly, war and peace, and Putin. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Nation: Discuss The Putin Interviews’ timeline.
Oliver Stone: The Putin Interviews began in June 2015. We had just finished filming Snowden—we went to Moscow to shoot the last scene with Ed Snowden in it. We stayed for a few more days and went into the Kremlin to see Mr. Putin for our first interview. Then we did two more days on that trip, so we had several interviews. We returned early next year and the middle of 2016—each times, different interviews, in Sochi… in the dacha—it was catch as catch can. His time was very pressured; he works long hours. Often he’d leave at 1:00 am and say, “I’ve got another meeting.”
He does discipline himself and gets a good night’s sleep. He was fresh every day—he was never tired, like I was. Very, very disciplined—probably from judo… He wore a suit and tie and looked very manicured no matter what time of day. He never had to go to the men’s room… He’s been keeping this up for 16 years. I mentioned the Reagan way of doing business—he doesn’t delegate, he gets into the mechanics of every situation. That impressed me… Putin is a very consistent, conservative leader.
The fourth trip—hopefully, we were finished… It wasn’t planned—it turned out after the US election, a whole new bunch of crisis issues were raised. So we arranged to go back in February 2017 and do a final installment, post-Trump. Which is devoted a lot to Trump—but it’s not just in the present, it goes back and encompasses 17 years, telling us about Putin’s time in office, which is very important to understanding the present situation. Americans tend to think in the moment—the headline, the news. It doesn’t work that way—policy, relations between countries take time.… Unfortunately, we don’t have that ability with the media world pressing in for immediate response, like Bush being prompted to say, “I looked into his soul and found a man I can trust”… Relationships like that get built for camera only.