Russian President Vladimir Putin in the trailer for Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews. (Supplied)
Oliver Stone has been called a lightning rod for controversy, and his latest project about Russian President Vladimir Putin is no exception.
The veteran movie director believes Mr Putin is misunderstood and the image the West has of him is wrong.
“It’s a politically, ideologically driven image,” he told the ABC’s 7.30 program.
“He’s not a communist and he doesn’t think like one. He thinks like a person who is educated, who is a lawyer.”
Stone says he ‘liked’ Putin
Stone formed his views during a series of interviews with Mr Putin for a four-part TV documentary called The Putin Interviews.
The men met during production of Stone’s film Snowden, based on whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who fled the US and now lives in Russia.
“I liked him, I respected him, let’s put it that way,” Stone said.
“He agreed to do a set of interviews that we did over two years. I did maybe 25 to 30 hours of film with him.”
Stone, who was in Sydney for the Vivid Ideas and Semi Permanent events, said no subjects were off-limits with Mr Putin.
“I challenged him and I teased him and I angered him, I hit every note I could,” he said.
“The man speaks articulately about what the Russian interests are in the world and I would say to you that they’re not about empire or expansion or aggression, or a return to the old days.”
Putin responds to hacking claims in documentary
During the interviews, Stone asked the President about claims of Russian interference in last year’s US election, but he was coy about revealing the response.
“He answered very clearly and I asked him repeatedly as it has become a big issue in the West and I think he answered very brightly, intelligently. I can’t tell you what he said, watch it for yourself and make your own judgment.”
Stone himself challenged claims by the US intelligence agencies about Russian hacking. So what does he think now?
“I have always questioned the US intelligence agencies. The CIA has always been a very dicey operation,” he said.
“The Iraq war, the information they gave the president seems to be politicised intelligence in order to justify weapons of mass destruction. Again and again we see instances where the intelligence services, not just the CIA but the NSA too, and the FBI, have made huge mistakes and we’ve paid the price.”
Stone fears ‘nuclear nightmare’
But Stone’s greatest concern for the future is the volatile relationship between Russia and the United States.
“I am very worried about it. I think we are sleep-walking towards a nuclear nightmare,” he said.
“If you look back in time, World War I, World War II, you will find they have been strong allies and we can return to that position and have a strong alliance with them which is what we need now.
“The world is in a very dangerous position and terrorism is an issue on which we both agree.”
Trump ‘a disaster’
US President Donald Trump had a cameo in Stone’s 2010 Wall Street sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, but his appearance hit the cutting room floor.
“I wish I had used it but at that point in time it was a long movie and I was trying to save time. I cut his scene,” he said.
“If I had known now I would have put it back in.”
So how does the director rate Mr Trump in his real-life role of President?
“It’s been a disaster,” he said. “This is a little too early to tell if Trump lasts, but it seems he’s not to be the kind of president who plans, who deliberates.”
The director has made films or biopics about a series of US presidents — JFK, Nixon and George W Bush — but for now has no plans to focus his creative skills on Mr Trump.
“If the Trump story may right now be a story about a man who is enamoured of consumerism or materialism and wants success at any cost, like Nixon a bit, and comes to the office willing to barter what is left of his soul in order to become president, possibly there is an angle there, but you know I’m not there yet.
“Let’s let some years go by and see what happens.”