Oliver Stone, the film director whose fiery passion and controversial statements have given him a singular reputation in Hollywood, seems relaxed.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Stone discussed his new movie, "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps," the financial crisis, his upcoming Showtime miniseries and how his life has changed in the last few decades.
Stone sees the movie -- the first sequel of his career -- as a bookend to 1987's 'Wall Street" and views it as more of a comedy of manners than an indictment of the finance industry. But Stone strong feelings about the financial crisis, he said, still shaped the films. "What bankers were doing is un-fucking believable! They pulled off the biggest heist of all time and top of that, they got billions in the bailout," he said.
The crisis prompted Stone to finally make a sequel after turning down previous scripts for" Wall Street 2." He last passed on the idea in 2006, explaining that it was "all hedge funders, James Bond Monte Carlo, doing coke, private submarines and crap like that." The global economic meltdown changed his mind: "You had these hedge fund guys taking [Gordon] Gekko's old game and finding new ways to make new money and then the banks took that game and made it their own."
And those sentiments highlight one of the movie's first scenes, in which Gekko, who has just been released from jail, gives a speech to college students and drops memorable lines like, "I once said greed is good - now it seems it's legal," "Greed got greedier," "the mother of all evil is speculation," "I was a small-time hood compared to what they're doing."
And the movie has clear parallels to the crisis, from a Bear Stearns-like bank named Keller Zabel that collapses to high-drama meetings of the country's top bankers at the New York Federal Reserve presided over by a Treasury Secretary named "Paul." Stone admits that Keller Zabel's founder is like Bear's Ace Greenberg or Lehman Brothers' Richard Fuld. The character Bretton James resembles JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and there's even a cameo by Nouriel "Dr. Doom" Roubini who is named Dr. Hashim.
Even the first movie's protagonist, Bud Fox (played by Charlie Sheen) who wears a wire and puts Gekko in jail, makes an appearance. But in a depressing sign of Stone's pessimism, the anguished hero has sold out, taking his father's airplane company and turning it into a private charter plane firm and selling it for a lot of money. When he encounters Gekko at a charity ball, Fox is flanked by two beautiful models and bragging about his overseas jaunts.
Stone says that his new hero, played by Shia LaBeouf, has more integrity than Fox because he's more idealistic whereas Fox just wanted to avenge his father.
The director says that he was guided by books about the crisis - including William Cohan's "House of Cards" and through conversations with prominent hedge funders and financiers including Blackstone's Stephen Schwarzmann ("he doesn't like me too much... he's part of the problem").
And former New York governor Eliot Spitzer provided invaluable advice and tipped Stone off to the problems at Goldman Sachs long before they made headlines. "He told me long before it was public that they were going long and short, it was explosive when it came out in the Times... I'm sure [Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd] Blankfein is in no rush to see it."
Stone is encouraged by President Obama's financial reform push though he warns that it will be inevitably watered down, pointing to weakened provisions of the so-called Volcker Rule. The bill is over a thousand pages long and every fucking lawyer is looking for loopholes," he said. And though he think Mary Schapiro is "a good lady" at the Securities and Exchange Commission, he says, "I'm surprised that no one's gone to jail."
Will the movie prove to be a cautionary tale to those young business school graduates? "What can you do? I'm trying to do my bit. It's about love and trust and greed and betrayal: How do you stay a human being when that much money is involved? But how do you educate the public? There have been some great documentaries but they don't have much of an audience. It's tough -- there has always been suspicion of bankers going back to the Frank Capra movies."
Stone is also excited about his upcoming series for Showtime, "Oliver Stone's Untold History of America," which will "show a pattern that came into being to create a national security state between 1900 and 2010."