When Oliver Stone releases a film, you’d better sit up and take notice. Whether he’s tackling the Vietnam War (as he did in a trilogy of films: “Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July” and “Heaven & Earth”), presidential scandals (another trilogy: “JFK,” “Nixon” and “W.”) or pulpy genre violence (“Natural Born Killers,” “U-Turn”), you can be sure he’ll give an audience member something to chew on. So when Stone signs on to direct some of the hottest young actors in Hollywood (Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson) in a tale of sex, drugs and violence, yeah, we’re interested.
MTV News caught up with Stone to talk about his first legitimate summer release, “Savages” (set for a July 6 release), his distaste for most summer popcorn films and his upcoming gargantuan take on nothing less than the history of the United States.
MTV: The release date of “Savages” was shifted quite a bit. It’s now being released in the middle of a very competitive summer. Were you happy with that decision?
Oliver Stone: I’ve never done a summer movie, believe it or not. Except for “Natural Born Killers,” but that was August, late summer. This is my first time out there in the big leagues. So I’m excited in a way.
MTV: Do you think “Savages” will play well for that younger summer audience?
Stone: I think it plays well. I don’t know that it would play completely to the “Hunger Games” crowd because we have a different kind of sexuality and the take on violence is real for us. It’s fun and exciting. It’s a wild ride. You don’t know what’s going to happen. I think the unpredictability is what makes it work.
MTV: Can you give me a sense of the relationship at the heart of the story between the characters played by Blake, Taylor and Aaron.
Stone: They are all friends and they believe in free love, and they happen to be growing some grass. One of them [Johnson] is doing good around the world. The other one [Kitsch] is an Afghanistan and Iraq veteran who’s his best buddy from school; they have a partnership. The girl [Lively] is from Laguna. They met on the beach, basically.
MTV: It sounds like just about every hot young actor was in the running for these roles.
Stone: I met with every pot dealer I could. [Laughs] For the girl, I had to meet a few of the younger newcomers because I did not know who they were. I saw [Blake’s] work and I was very impressed with “[The Private Live of] Pippa Lee.” And she was very strong in “The Town.” I think people that know her from “Gossip Girl” will be surprised. She is beautiful and she is sexy. She is hot. That’s what a lot of fans would say about her.
MTV: Has “Savages” received a rating yet?
Stone: We got a hard R. It’s an intense movie but it’s a different style than “Natural Born Killers.” It has a lush look. It has some of that sun-drenched romanticism that I like. It’s not just action, it is also romantic.
MTV: “Savages” will be surrounded by some big summer blockbusters. You’ve managed to avoid tentpole movies, though you did almost direct a “Mission: Impossible” at one point.
Stone: Well, we tried to make a “Mission” at that time, which was ahead of its time in terms of the story. I looked at it as a vehicle that was supersmart. [But] they could never pick a script. With “Mission: Impossible,” you have to hit these beats all the time.
MTV: It sounds like it’s not a regret for you.
Stone: It’s all steroids now. I mean “Iron Man 2″ is unwatchable, as is “Transformers 2.” It’s not my kind of moviemaking. “Savages” is a different kind of movie. It’s realistic and at the same time it has a bit of that summer pop feel.
MTV: What’s the status of your TV series, “The Untold History of the United States”?
Stone: That one’s a bitch. It’s a bitch in my butt.
MTV: It will begin airing on Showtime in November?
Stone: Yeah, we will make that for sure, but there are so many factors and fact checking. It’s a lot of work. It’s 21 hours and each hour has to work like a movie. I’m dealing with an important issue to me. That’s a legacy for me. Something that matters. It may not matter to most people, but it does matter to me. This is a perception of our time that is completely different from what we’re hearing in magazines and in our newspapers. We deal with all types of things, such as the nature of the atomic bomb, why was it used, why it should not have been used. It’s all kinds of stuff. Reagan’s legacy, our national security state, we go after all of it.
MTV: Do you narrate it?
Stone: Yes, I narrate it as well.
Check out Oliver Stone’s “Savages” in theaters July 6, and “The Untold History of the United States” on Showtime in November.
It’s Summer Movie Preview Week, and MTV News will be bringing you exclusive interviews, clips and photos for the most anticipated summer movies . Get ready to gorge on inside looks at “The Avengers,” Robert Pattinson’s “Bel Ami,” Kristen Stewart’s “Snow White,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and more!