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With the teen soap opera The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2 the only major new release in theaters this weekend and the family animated flick Brave being the biggest debut on home video this week, is there anything left for those of us old enough to vote? Mercifully for adults there is Oliver Stone's underappreciated Savages, which just came out on DVD, Blu-ray and various VOD services. The intense drug-trafficking drama is about two best friends (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson) whose lucrative marijuana business based in Laguna Beach, California has attracted the unwanted attention of the Mexican Baja Cartel, headed up by the ruthless Elena (Salma Hayek). Benicio Del Toro leads Elena's pack of thugs, John Travolta plays a crooked drug enforcement agent and Blake Lively plays the free-spirited hippie chick who is held hostage by the cartel because she's the shared object of desire of both Kitsch and Johnson.
On the night before Election Day, a small press group sat down with Stone and Del Toro for an intimate dinner at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to discuss all things Savages. Stone and Del Toro had much to say about their latest collaboration, the drug war and the future of film. Spoiler alert: if you don't want to read anything about the ending of Savages, do not read the very last quote in this post.
Stone sings the praises of Blu-ray: "There is nothing better, next to going to the theater, than Blu-ray. I'm not hawking Blu-ray… I've been saying this for years. It's like preservation, for me. In 30 years from now, Blu-ray will be the last hardware available to serious collectors. You'll be paying $800 for you Blu-ray of Savages because it would be worth that much. Hardware is disappearing. Everyone talks about cloud computing—you trust it, I don't. I want to have my comic book, my baseball cards. I still have my LaserDisc player and my VCR."
Stone on digital vs. film: "I might sound like an old dinosaur, but I still think film is 25% better [than digital]. If you put the best of digital and the best of film side by side and look with your own eye, you can see the difference. Every filmmaker is horrified about what happens to film, and we're all horrified by what happens in some of theaters. It's gotten better with digital projection. I hope film doesn't die. I think it will always be there. I can't believe people would give it up. It would be criminal—like taking vision away from the human race."
Stone on the unrated version of Savages: "I try to make stories [for theaters] where you don't leave your seats because you might miss something. That's what I tried to do with Savages. The unrated version is not a director's cut. I really like the theatrical version—that was my choice. There were 11 minutes with some backstory on some of the characters, like Benicio with his wife and his kids, and an added scene with Salma and O [Blake Lively] in the bedroom together. The deleted scenes I felt interrupted the flow."
Stone on the drug war: "My feeling is that the drug war goes on and on. The drug war is an international disaster for our country. You don't catch the bad guys and the wrong people go to jail."
Del Toro on what has changed about the drug war between Traffic and Savages: "Not much has changed, except that maybe you can buy marijuana for medical purposes in 17 states. That's a beginning of something, perhaps."
Del Toro on if he enjoyed watching Salma Hayek berate him and slap him around: "I enjoy looking at Salma any which way. She's a tough cookie and very funny."
Del Toro on what he learned from Stone: "The strength is the writing. [I learned a lot] working with him on the movie and seeing how prepared and intense he was with the writing—not forcing me to just say lines, but understanding what is important about every scene. If I were going to direct, I'd really pay attention to that. I think he is a master."
Stone on Savages' double ending: "In O's head, she has a romantic, hippie view of the world that she can be in love with two men. In her vision of the world [and in the book], the two of them would lay down their lives together. I didn't buy that. I'm perhaps too old or too cynical, but I think it was her vision and a Butch Cassidy ending. So she says, 'That's the way it should have ended, but the truth has a mind of its own.' It wasn't done to have a happy ending. I didn't believe the two of them would lay down their lives for the third one. That's all. Salma Hayek confirms my point of view when she says, 'There's something wrong with your love story, baby.' So I think one is a romantic ending and one is a realistic ending, and I love double endings. It is a cynical ending, but they at least get a second chance in the fantasy world they created."