Everybody Must Get Stoned

On October 17—three weeks before Election Day—Oliver Stone’s much-anticipated film about the life and presidency of George W. Bush arrives in theaters.
Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Will W. clumsily stoke the partisan flames, with Bush haters cheering and Bush lovers jeering, or will the infamously incendiary director upend our expectations? Are we in for a conspiracy-laden diatribe along the lines of JFK or something more sober and serious, like Nixon? To discuss all that and much more, editor Evan Smith and senior editor Jake Silverstein convened a diverse group (film critic, campaign strategist, screenwriter, presidential historian, indie film guru) over dinner at Louie’s 106, in Austin. On the menu: fact versus dramatic license, how to tell a story whose narrative arc is ongoing, and what the last scene should be before the credits roll.

Douglas Brinkley

Douglas Brinkley is an author and a professor of history at Rice University, in Houston. He has written biographies of Jimmy Carter and John Kerry, edited Ronald Reagan’s diaries and a three-volume collection of Hunter S. Thompson’s letters, and chronicled Hurricane Katrina’s effects on New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.


Matthew Dowd

Matthew Dowd was a senior strategist for George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign and the chief strategist for the president’s reelection bid, in 2004. He currently serves as an analyst for ABC News and is the author of Applebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect With the New American Community.


Christopher Kelly

Christopher Kelly, the chief film critic for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is one of Texas Monthly’s writers-at-large and the magazine’s Hollywood, TX columnist. He has written for Slate, the Chicago Tribune, Salon, Film Comment, Premiere, and numerous other publications. His first novel, A Push and a Shove, was published last year.


John Pierson

John Pierson, a clinical professor in the Radio, Television, and Film Department at the University of Texas at Austin, played a pivotal role in bringing the earliest work of filmmakers Spike Lee, Michael Moore, and Richard Linklater to the big screen. He is the author of Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes: A Guided Tour Across a Decade of American Independent Cinema.


Anne Rapp

Anne Rapp is a screenwriter who has spent sixteen years as a script supervisor on more than twenty feature films, from Tender Mercies to That Thing You Do. Her screenplays for Cookie’s Fortune and Dr. T and the Women were directed by Robert Altman. She also co-wrote the musical A Ride With Bob with Ray Benson, of Asleep at the Wheel.

1. Full Disclosures

SMITH: Let’s begin by stipulating that none of us have seen W. We’ve only seen the trailer and read stories about it, but that’s okay. We can still have an intelligent discussion before seeing the film.

DOWD: Well, you can make the argument that the film was made before seeing the end of the presidency.

SMITH: That’s right. So what I want us to get at is the

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