Oliver Stone talks Trump at a Santa Monica screening of “Nixon”

By Andrew Dubbins

Oliver Stone at the Aero Theatre

He’s a foul-mouthed president plagued by leaks and controversy, desperate to be loved, estranged from his wife, antagonistic toward the press, dishonest to a fault and corrupted by power.

We’re talking, of course, about Richard Nixon.

Although many see shades of Tricky Dick in today’s White House, director Oliver Stone believes President Donald Trump belongs in a category wholly unto himself.

Stone spoke Thursday, May 18, during a packed screening of his 1995 biopic “Nixon” at the funky Aero Theater in Santa Monica, the leadoff event for a three-night marathon of Stone films.

“I directed [Donald Trump] in a deleted scene of ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,’” said Stone, drawing a laugh from the audience. “His love of himself … it’s grandiose, like Shakespeare.”

“Nixon” was a box office flop but a critical success, earning four Academy Award nominations, including Best Original Screenplay for Stone and Best Actor for Anthony Hopkins.

Getting it made, said Stone, was a “painful experience.” His studio partner, Warner Brothers, thought it was too dialogue-heavy, so he turned to Disney’s Hollywood Pictures for financing
(making “Nixon” one of the more unusual Disney films).

Stone said he doubts his first choice for Nixon, Jack Nicholson, even read the script; his second choice, Warren Beatty, spent the entire rehearsal talking about Marilyn Monroe and other escapades. Hopkins turned down the role at first — worried he couldn’t pull off the accent — then abandoned the set, twice, after a co-star criticized him over just that.

Director of three films about the American presidency — “JFK,” “Nixon,” and “W” — Stone said the most rewarding part of making “Nixon” was diving into our 37th president’s deeply flawed but, in many respects, relatable character. In writing the film he spoke to many White House insiders from the Nixon era, including former White House Counsel John Dean, and drew a good deal of inspiration from his own father.

“My father was an Eisenhower Republican [and] a good role model because he was a career man. He was a successful man who stretched himself greatly in his pursuit of American success,” Stone said.

Stone watched the film from the back of the theater and wore a wide smile as the credits rolled and the audience applauded.

“I hope it means something to you,” he’d said before the screening. “Every single movie, no matter how successful or unsuccessful, is surely a gigantic effort. It’s a year of my life at least. It represents a mindset, an atmosphere. … Like a historian remembers dates, you remember the year of a movie.”

Now seems like a fitting time to remember “Nixon.”