Yesterday I received the new Blu-ray edition of Oliver Stone’s JFK (Blu-ray information here) and promptly watched it last night. After all, this is the best Oliver Stone movie and on top of that it may in fact be the greatest political thriller ever made (at least top ten) and it may be the last time we see a film of it’s nature ever made.
Considering the size and scope of this feature it is amazing to think it was made on a budget of $40 million (source) especially when you consider the talent involved, which includes Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, Gary Oldman, Michael Rooker, Jack Lemmon, Laurie Metcalf, Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci, Walter Matthau, Donald Sutherland, Vincent D’Onofrio, Wayne Knight, John Larroquette and Ron Rifkin. Somehow this film managed to break out and become a $70 million hit domestically and ultimately earned over $200 million worldwide making it Stone’s largest worldwide grossing film ever. The stars aligned for this film, but I can’t see it ever happening again.
Stone was able to make several political pieces, but despite a varying level of quality he still had to got to foreign hedge funds and even China to make his most recent film, W.. It seems the political thriller is all but dead.
On Tuesday I interviewed Stanley Weiser, writer of W. and Stone’s Wall Street, and when I asked him if W. would be the end of the Bush biopics or just the beginning he said, “I donâ€™t think there will ever be another Bush movie. Itâ€™s too expensive, they wonâ€™t make political movies anymore for television or features.” He continued, “People say this is just one story about Bush, but there wonâ€™t be another one. Studios donâ€™t want to make political films anymore. Only on rare exceptions, if youâ€™re Steven Spielberg or George Clooney or Oliver and even Oliver could not get this made with the studios. He had to scrape together money.”
W. was made on a shoe-string budget of $25.1 million, which compared to the $40 million used to make JFK back in 1991 is peanuts. When someone like Oliver Stone can’t even bring investors to the table for a political piece isn’t it spelling the end of the genre?
Movies like The Kingdom, Body of Lies, Lions for Lambs and Syriana have all toppled at the box-office due to their relation to the Iraq War and terrorism and none of them match the size and scope of JFK. The prospect certainly doesn’t bode well for Universal’s State of Play starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck next April. Then again, that movie has the chance to re-energize a dying genre as it is based on the acclaimed BBC miniseries of the same name.
Personally I like political thrillers, they are certainly the more interesting and often more informing films and get your brain working. I know a lot of people like to go to the theaters to turn their brains off, and you have movies like Max Payne for that, but would it hurt Hollywood to start investing a little more money and time and get us back to making some of these political flicks that manage to attract audience attention?
NOTE: I will have that complete Stanley Weiser interview for you very soon.