March 28 (Bloomberg) -- Almost a year after “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” Oliver Stone says most bankers persist in being selfish and financial markets remain riddled with excess.
The film director is still unimpressed by the practices of Wall Street’s financial gurus. He is working on a movie called “Savages” about American history and spoke in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles office.
Thind: You switched the Josh Brolin character in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” to a banker from a hedge fund manager. What changed your mind?
Stone: The script had come from Alan Loeb. As we investigated, it became clear the big money was at the banks. We switched over with Josh Brolin playing the head of the bank.
I met with several hedge funds. They have a right to speculation as long as the investor is sophisticated enough to know what he is doing. I don’t see them as Tony Montana exactly. They’re just the tail, the dog is wagging them. The big dog is these seven banks.
Thind: Were the hedge funds culpable for the crisis?
Stone: You can’t condemn the hedge funders for doing what they’re doing. If they’re gonna be pigs they’re pigs, wrecking birthday parties and all that.
I could’ve made a movie about hedge funders but it would’ve been more like a James Bond movie where guys are flying around.
Russia to Monaco
The original script had a lot of people flying around in helicopters, Russian hedge funders, Monaco, all that boring Bond stuff.
Thind: How do you convey the ins and outs of an investment bank’s work so that ordinary people can understand it?
Stone: It’s hard to show some of that stuff. How do you show how the mortgage market works in the film or prop trading? I know when the audience is going to yawn and nod off.
Thind: Did you therefore have to make serious allowances?
Stone: We’re dealing with a drama, with actors, characters, people have to be involved, we have to make 60, 70, 80 million dollars in order to justify this investment. People are not realistic about that.
Thind: Hedge funds have been big financiers of the film business. Was there any pressure on you to put a more favorable light on the industry?
Stone: I didn’t pull any punches. Fox, who made both movies, they work with Dune, I think they’re a large fund.
Thind: What about excess? It’s still a common issue.
Stone: I did excess in the 1980s. My feeling as a filmmaker is that I don’t want to go back and just do excess.
Wall Street is complicated. I didn’t want to simplify it and make it stupid because I respect those people. They’re smart as a whip. I met wizards. They’re impressive guys but where’s their soul, that’s their issue. Most of them are selfish, they take care of their little family but they screw everybody else over. Some of them are nice guys and maintain a balance in their lives but some of them lose it and they become so arrogant.
Thind: What are you working on next?
Stone: I’m writing a thriller called “Savages,” on the history of the U.S. I’ve been working three years on this and hoping to deliver it in the fall. It’s about America’s forgotten history. It’s set in World War II, about how we got to be where we are. It’s the culmination of my work and my life, I think.
(Sarfraz Thind is a reporter for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. This interview was adapted from a longer conversation.)
To contact the reporter on this story: Sarfraz Thind in London at Sthind3@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at firstname.lastname@example.org.