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OLIVER STONE: L.A. Asleep. My wife put the TV on.
And what did you think was happening?
It was sensational. It was exciting. It was horrifying. It reminded me in its barbarity and ferocity of the French Revolution — the tumbrels, heads falling. And I had feelings of anger in me, and vengeance. I had a fight with my son, actually, because he was much more objective about it: “How do you know? Don’t assume anything. You’re acting like the mob.” But there were other feelings as well. You know, I realize I’m an older person; I’ve seen Vietnam and a lot of death and shit. Oklahoma City was horrible. JFK’s assassination. Watergate. The 2000 election. We’ve been through our times of shit in this country, so this was another version.
World Trade Centeris very powerful — emotionally powerful. I had a very visceral reaction to it.I think it’s obviously the film, but it’s also more than the film — it’s the fact that the subject matter is so loaded. If you make a film about fire jumpers, and a fire jumper comes to see it, he’ll say, “Well, you got this part right, you got this part wrong.’?” With this film, we’re all fire jumpers. It’s also very different from a lot of your other films — it’s gentle and contained and quiet. I’m wondering if you had to devise a different approach because the subject matter was so delicate.
I just want to say first that the way I look at myself — it’s not necessarily in the result — but with every film, I really have made an effort to make each one an island unto itself in this little sea that we go around in our ships. And every island has been a destination, a stop for a period of time. I’ve tried to take a different style for every film, because it’s the story that comes first, and the subject dictates the style. Even with something like Natural Born Killers, which seems very stylistic and eccentric, it’s still the content that I think is valid and important. With this film, certain things presented themselves: Obviously, the sensitivities of everyone involved, but ultimately that’s the sky around the project. With JFK, for instance, there were his children to think of, Jackie was still alive, Teddy Kennedy. Blowing his head off in Dealey Plaza didn’t go down well with them either. But there was a bigger story to tell.
Here we were limited by movement, so we worked out a style by which, methodically, the film would go in and out of light: Light would fight with the dark, or rather, light would try to make it up to the dark. Claustrophobia is an issue with a film like this. I did Talk Radio, so I know that feeling of being on one set the whole time. Also, Born on the Fourth of July: That was a very contained movie, in a way, because we had a young man in a wheelchair in the second half, where there’s very little movement. When I read this script, I said, “How do we make this movie watchable? How do we make the tension manageable for a mainstream audience?”
It may surprise a lot of people that you’re not using a lot of shock cuts, moving around inside the frame — what you’ve termed your “cubist” style.
Well, where can you move in a hole? A hole is limited. Finding the right point of view in the hole is crucial.
You once said about Platoon?, “I felt like if I didn’t ?do it now, I’m going to forget.” We’re five years out ?from 9/11 now, and there is much public hand-wringing about whether it’s too soon yet to deal with this ?subject matter.
I think it’s a bogus question. The consequences of that day are far worse today. More people have died since then because of the war on terror. There’s more war, there’s more fear, and there is constitutional breakdown left and right. Have the good sense to go to the psychiatrist quickly. If you’ve been raped, talk to somebody about what that day itself was like before you build up all this armor.
You pursued this film, correct?
Yes. Petitioned. My agent, Bryan Lourdes, a man of taste, said to me, “Look, I read this script two weeks ago — it stays with me, it’s emotional. I don’t know if it will make a dime, I don’t know if I can get it financed, but just read it.” So I read it, and I said, “My God, I never thought of this — to do 2001 this way.” I knew [World Trade Center producers] Michael Shamberg and Stacy Sher. But no one would make it; Universal dropped it at the [proposed] budget. I was doing other things, I wasn’t stopping my life. But then it came back around. Paramount was just coming into being [under new management]. We were very lucky, because that new studio energy was coming in, and they wanted to make it so badly that it happened right away.