CULTURE

Savages

Oliver Stone takes us behind the scenes of his ferocious new thriller.


For major Hollywood studios, Fourth of July weekend typically sees the ­un­­leashing of pirates, robots, vampires, superheroes, and extraterrestrials in multiplex ­seat-fillers—not exactly the cinematic sweet spot for our most consistently controversial auteur. “It’s all new to me,” says Oliver Stone, whose latest film, Savages, is out July 6. (The only other time one of Stone’s 19 movies opened during the summer was when Natural Born Killers premiered in late August of 1994—“during the dog days,” the director says with a laugh. “The studio didn’t have much faith in that one.”) The oft-­misunderstood Stone has been called many things—a ­paranoid propagandist (JFK), an advocate of corporate greed (Wall Street), a misanthropic menace to society (Natural Born Killers)—but never a director of easygoing popcorn fare.

Savages, though, based on Don Winslow’s 2010 crime novel, has a certain summer-movie marketability­—or, at the very least, it does not want for sex, drugs, guns, or hot young actors. The story revolves around marijuana dealers Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), who share a thriving business, an oceanside house in Southern California, and a beautiful girl named O (Blake Lively). But the threesome’s stoner idyll is shattered when the icy queen of a rival Mexican cartel (Salma Hayek) orders O’s ­kidnapping—the first offensive in a brutal turf war, parts of which were filmed on location in the desert outside Los Angeles. “It’s a wild ride drenched in romanticism,” Stone says. But in the aftermath of Ben and Chon’s blood-soaked blaze of glory, there are, as in most stories the director touches, some ­troubling moral questions. “Where is the line ­between necessary and unnecessary ­violence?” Stone asks both himself and the viewer. The answer, he hopes, will be ­implicit. After all, he says, “it wouldn’t be an Oliver Stone movie if there weren’t some miscommunication, would it?”

Savages

“Drug queen Elena (Salma Hayek) in her signature blue top. We were shooing in late August on a high mesa northeast of LA, and there was so cover. It was hot and challenging.”

Photographer: Lauren Greenfield

“This is me with Blake Lively, who plays Ophelia (or “O”), at Ben and Chon’s house. It’s meant to be in Laguna Beach, but we shot in Malibu. She plays the boys’ lover—one third of the threesome.”

Photographer: Lauren Greenfield

“John Travolta, in his official uniform. His character is a wiggly, hard-to-figure-out DEA agent who embodies all the problems with fighting the drug war.”

Photographer: Lauren Greenfield

“Taylor Kitch plays Chon, whose scars are the result of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Navy SEAL. He’s come back to California with damange not just to his face but also to his soul.”

Photographer: Lauren Greenfield

“Sandra Echeverria, a lovely young actress, getting some makeup retouched—sheplays Elena’s spoiled daughter. I hear she’s a bit of a star in Mexico.”

Photographer: Lauren Greenfield

“Chon (Taylor Kitch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson), ready for a showdown. Chon is given to action, but Ben wants to negotiate—in a world where it’s way difficult to do so.”

Photographer: Lauren Greenfield

“Benicio Del Toro plays an enforecer for Elena’s drug cartel. He’s a bad man, but Benicio is too sensitive an actor not to portray some humanity in him.”

Photographer: Lauren Greenfield
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