Fact-Checking Oliver Stone's 'W.' -- Is The Film True To Life?
Over the last few elections, a new post-debate tradition has sprung up as fact-check teams jump on air mere moments after the candidates say goodbye, eager to tell us why candidate X won't save us as much money as he claims, or candidate Y is lying about his voting record. After seeing next week's Oliver Stone film "W.," you might wish those guys were standing in the theater lobby, eager to walk you to your car.
Although the film proudly walks the line of bipartisanship, several scenes depicting our current president contain background details sure to raise some eyebrows. Did George W. Bush really once get a girl pregnant? Did he drive his car into a garage door in a fit of anger? And is his favorite piece of theater really one of the goofiest musicals of all time?
Below are several assertions presented in "W.," as well as the real-life facts.
W. Once Got a Woman Pregnant
Film: A young, still irresponsible Bush (Josh Brolin) gets caught up in a relationship with a woman named "Fran" (Marley Shelton), promises to marry her, then jumps up onto a bar with her to dance in celebration. Later, W. goes to his father for help, and George H.W. Bush (James Cromwell) says he'll "take care" of it.
Fact: The rumor has haunted Bush for decades but most closely resembles an allegation made by Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, who claimed in 2000 to have uncovered a 1971 relationship between Bush and an old flame. Flynt has alleged that the pro-life Bush arranged for an abortion, which at the time was illegal in Texas; the president has not commented either way.
W. Loves "Cats"
Film: When Bush gets down over the state of the country, Laura (Elizabeth Banks) cheers him up by saying that she'll get tickets to his favorite play. In early screenings, Los Angeles audiences have been chuckling over the revelation that it's "Cats," the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical often viewed as something less than high art.
Fact: " 'Cats' was one of his favorite plays," Stone insists of a fact uncovered by his research team. "I think this movie is better than 'Cats,' but I don't think he's going to see this." In 2006, Bush paid tribute to Webber at the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors ceremony.
Rumsfeld Doodled During Staff Meetings
Film: While Bush's advisers are discussing their 9/11 response and coining the infamous "Axis of Evil" moniker, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn) is obliviously sketching a cartoon of Condoleezza Rice, who is sitting nearby.
Fact: "Whether he doodled Rice is an issue, but he doodled," Stone admitted. "He would express his arrogance and indifference [often]. He hated meetings with people he did not see at his level, and he was famous for his doodling, among other things."
W. Regretted Trading Sammy Sosa
Film: During a flashback conversation with his father in 1990, Bush cites his approval of the trade involving baseball star Sammy Sosa as an example of his poor judgment.
Fact: Although Bush did allow the trade of Sosa (who would go on to hit 609 home runs) while serving as owner of the Texas Rangers, the future slugger didn't become an above-average player until 1993. In 1990, Bush would have likely been proud of unloading a man who would only hit .233 that season.
Jack Hawk Loves the Administration
Film: During scenes depicting George W. Bush's notorious "Mission Accomplished" speech, Stone cuts to a program called "Spinball" hosted by a right-wing, full-of-praise talking head with the too-hilarious-to-be-real name Jack Hawk.
Fact: "It's a condensed character of the American reporters," the director said, denying that fake names were used because Bush-friendly channels like Fox News may have been unwilling to help Stone's movie. "[It was the way] many of them were at the time."
W. Crashes His Car
Film: After stumbling during an early campaign, a furious Bush rams his vehicle into a garage door, frightening Laura.
Fact: According to a 2000 USA Today article, "After a few speeches, he asked [Laura] — coming up the driveway on the way home from one — how his delivery was going over. Terrible, said the forthright wife. George W. drove his Pontiac Bonneville right into the garage wall."
Check out everything we've got on "W."
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