Interview: Oliver Stone & Benicio Del Toro - dinner with Savages
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
A Savage dinner with Oliver Stone and Benicio Del Toro.
A Monday night, one day before a new president is to be chosen by the American people. My plans for the night are less political, but ironically, the men I'm meeting are national agendas unto themselves. After a short cocktail and drinks, we are seated in the back area of a well-known Beverly Hills restaurant. To my right is acclaimed Oscar winning director Oliver Stone, known for his many movies and national political headlines. Across the table sits an Oscar winning actor that defines the craft, while providing the cool that most female movie goers swoon for. His name, Benicio Del Toro. Hands are shaken and pleasantries are met. We all order the Salmon.
We've heard some stories, can you tell us about working with Benicio Del Toro on set and on the phone.
Oliver: Benicio is great. He really works for the character. I had the most feedback in the movie from him. To the point where he'd call me every Sunday and I'd think "Oh #$!@". But really, they were good talks. We went for hours sometimes.
Oliver: By now, fans know about the ending of this film. Why did you choose this avenue?
Oliver: This movie is "O's" (Blake Lively) story and it’s from her point of view, it's her story, the way she tells it. In her vision, two would lay down their lives for the other, but I didn't buy that. Maybe I'm more cynical. Salma Hayek confirms my point of view when she says, "There’s something wrong with your love story, baby". I love double endings! They may not be as commercially successful, I don't know. In the end the studio loved it and it went over well in the preview screenings. [Pointing to Benicio] You went to a screening in New Jersey, the first one, what did you see.
Benicio: What do I think about the double ending? I really enjoyed the previews, for me it was a little strange. I think the audiences really hated me when they saw the "real" ending. They didn't like how my character was left, that now I'm alive.
My Favorite Parts of the Lado character were the multi-cultural references. The Latin drug hit man who groaned about American life, but also enjoys them. I laughed when you showed up to the decimated safe house with bodies everywhere and you had a Starbucks drink in your hand.
Benicio: That was his idea [pointing to Oliver]. I just showed up to the scene with Starbucks and Oliver asked if I was going to use it in the scene, and I said "uh, yea". In this I think Lado is a fun Mexican bad guy that is assimilating.
Now Lado is a killer with the perfect chameleon skin in Los Angeles. He is dressed as a gardener with his associates following in a beat up lawn care truck.
Benicio: Yea, that part came from the original book. But Lado's mustache actually came from a guy who works on my street as a gardener. When I think about it now, I haven't seen in a while.
Maybe he's off contract killing?
Benicio: [Laughs] Yeah, maybe.
Oliver: And the accent. You got that from your mechanic, right? Benicio had to get the right Tijuana accent for Lado.
Now you had a DEA specialist on set. How was his view of the drug war? I ask taking into account that John Travolta plays a crooked DEA agent in this film.
Oliver: He is actually a true believer. He served 30 years abroad in many countries. He brought to our attention current cartels and people in power. As for the crooked DEA agent, that came from the book.
Can you tell me, did you enjoy towering over Salma and looking down as she gave you orders and yelled at you?
Benicio: I enjoyed looking at Salma in every way! Up, down, whatever! (Everyone Laughs)
Oliver: Ha ha, Salma...she is a...creation! [everyone laughs in agreement]
Benicio: She's a tough cookie, yeah.
Oliver: Salty, she's slapped the $%#! out of Benicio.
Benicio: [laughs] 17 slaps, I'm pretty sure we got it on four.
Oliver: It's funny because the macho thing is very important, especially in Mexico.
Can you talk about Untold History of the United States? (Oliver's new special on Showtime)
Oliver: Before I work on anything else, I need to finish it. It's been 4 1/2 years, taken a chunk of my life. It's a documentary series that focuses on events in our nation’s past. True stories and possible outcomes that could have really changed our world today.
Speaking of alternate projects, the 50th anniversary of James bond is happening. What was it like being a henchman in a Bond movie?
Oliver: [looks over surprised] Whaat! You did that? You were in a Bond movie?
Benicio: [smiles] Yeah, I was in License to Kill.
Oliver: Which Bond did you have?
Benicio: Timothy Dalton
Robert Davi as the villain with Wayne Newton in the mix.
Benicio: Yeah. I met with the Colby Broccoli and ended up getting the job. And that was huge because in Puerto Rico as a child I had a lobby card of Thunderball on my wall. A funny story about License to Kill. It was my first big role, I really thought I had made it.
Oliver: You were the guy with the teeth!
Benicio: Yeah, the gold teeth. The thing is that I thought I had finally made it as an actor. I believe I cleared something like $20,000. So to prove I was a big shot n everything I went out and bought an $8,000 painting. Little did I know I wouldn't work again for a year and a half.
Do you still have that painting?
Benicio: Yes, yes I do. I fought it to the end, but I ended up surviving.
Lastly, is their anything you'd like to say about Savages being released on Blu-ray?
Oliver: Yes. While I am a fan of film as a format. I think Blu-ray is the closest we can get to movie perfection right now. I truly believe that it will a standard that people will look back to in 25 years for movie preservation.
Savages is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and On Demand.
Blu-ray special features include commentary by Oliver Stone. Deleted scenes and a feature called Stone Cold Savages that focuses on each of the main characters in the movie.