Oliver Stone has never been one to shy away from politics. During a speech at the Gotham Independent Film Awards on Monday night, the director of “Snowden” made an oblique reference to national security under a Trump administration. “Mr. Snowden said very clearly that the mechanism is in place now so that when there is another terror attack, which inevitably there probably will be in this country, the next president, whoever he may be, will have the authority to close down the system in a way that is much more oppressive than it’s ever been,” Stone said. “The surveillance state, ‘1984,’ cyberwarfare, drone warfare is with us.”
Stone was at the Gotham Awards to accept a career tribute presented to him by J.C. Chandor. Prior to taking the stage, he spoke for a few minutes with Variety about the election, voting for Jill Stein, and why Trump as president “isn’t all bad news.”
How has the independent film business changed since you started as a director?
I’m not an expert, but I struggle from film to film. I make them as they come. “Snowden” was a film that was outside the realm of the U.S. interests. We didn’t get any financing here — that was very hard. It wasn’t a small movie. We needed some money. France and Germany were our biggest supporters. All the majors turned us down. Open Road did jump in. Thank God we got distribution. But still, it’s a much more limited game. I’m glad the movie got out.
Did you think in a few years, it’ll be possible to make a movie like “Snowden”?
I don’t think you are able to make movies critical of the U.S. in any large degree, since the 1970s, when there was a wave of it. I think I was able to squeak by in the 1980s with the movies I did. The Vietnam movie [“Platoon”] was enough of American interest that they watched it. It was still rejected for 10 years. For “Born on the Fourth of the July,” Tom Cruise helped us get it made. Those are movies that they wouldn’t do now. “JFK” certainly not. “Nixon” certainly not. These are movies critical of the country and the system. “Wall Street” is critical but they made it because it was sexy. So I’m always on the edge.
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What are your thoughts on Trump getting elected as president?
I was shocked. I said I’d eat my shirt if it happened to a journalist. I owe him. I have to eat my shirt somewhere along the line.
Are you going to actually do that?
I don’t know, it depends. What do you think? I told everyone in Europe, I said, “You guys are paranoid. You’re inventing this scenario. It’s just not going to happen.” It shows you I’m not really in touch with how strong a reaction globalism has gotten, as well as Hillary Clinton was not liked. You accept it and move on. So far, his appointments have been very hardcore.
Are you concerned?
Yeah — any American should be. But I was concerned with either case, because I was worried about her going to war with Russia. There’s no Peace Party in the United States. The Democrats are no longer the Democrats that I grew up with.
Were you a Bernie supporter?
I was. But I’m not an activist. Bernie would have been better than both of these guys. I voted for, whatever, Jill Stein. It was symbolic.
Many people are angry at Jill Stein voters because they think she cost Hillary the election.
Yeah. But you know, I’m not involved in that. I’m not an ideologue. I really try to make a practical vote. I think Trump can be influenced and it’s not necessarily all bad news. There have been thoughts on working on the infrastructure of the United States. That would be great. I think he would make a lot of friends. His intentions, at least as stated, are not to make enemies or interfere in other people’s affairs, which has always been the problem with our country. I don’t know what the CIA guy [Mike Pompeo] is going to do. He’s a hardcore guy. Whether he’s going to go out and mess with other country’s internal process is a big question mark.
Have you heard about Jill Stein’s efforts to do a recount?
I don’t have an opinion. It seems like we don’t have fair elections anyway — 2000 was proof it was over. Really, it was an awful election. I felt 2000 was a corrupt election. I felt that Gore won. After that, your hopes dim because it was so important. In 2004, there were significant questions about the electoral ballot in Ohio with John Kerry. We criticize Venezuela for not being a democracy. We say he’s a dictator [Nicolas Maduro]. But the truth is, he was elected many times, and they have in Venezuela a paper ballot as well as an electronic ballot. This is what we should have in this country. We shouldn’t have different states with different systems. You can’t just go electronic, because it is hackable. You’ll never know. It’s crazy not to have a paper ballot to me. You cannot consider this a democracy. It’s an oligarchy, I guess.