Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson & John Travolta Interview For Oliver Stone’s ‘Savages’
Three-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone returns to the screen with the ferocious thriller ‘Savages,’ featuring the all-star ensemble cast of Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch and Demian Bichir. The film is based on Don Winslow’s best-selling crime novel that was named one of The New York Times’ Top 10 Books of 2010. Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Ben (Aaron Johnson), a peaceful and charitable Buddhist, and his closest friend Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a former Navy SEAL and ex-mercenary, run a lucrative, homegrown industry—raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. They also share a one-of-a-kind love with the extraordinary beauty Ophelia (Blake Lively). Life is idyllic in their Southern California town…until the Mexican Baja Cartel decides to move in and demands that the trio partners with them. When the merciless head of the BC, Elena (Salma Hayek), and her brutal enforcer, Lado (Benicio Del Toro), underestimate the unbreakable bond among these three friends, Ben and Chon – with the reluctant, slippery assistance of a dirty DEA agent (John Travolta) – wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the cartel. And so begins a series of increasingly vicious ploys and maneuvers in a high stakes, savage battle of wills. ‘Savages’ arrives in cinemas July 6th in the US and September 26th in the UK.
Can you tell us about your character Ben when we meet him in the story?
Aaron Johnson: When we come into the story, Ben and Chon are already kind of discovering their own paths, almost, away from this marijuana business that they put together. My character is already wanting to say goodbye to it, he wants to help people in Africa to set up water systems and water panels. He wants to go a bit more eco, whereas Chon really has nothing else to…. he has Iraq, but he wants to get away from that. He wants to keep the marijuana going. So they start to have their differences at the beginning, but then there’s that bond of friendship that’s been going since they were little kids. They’e brothers.
And Chon, even though Ben is his best friend, he looks at things quite differently?
Taylor Kitsch: He’s just jaded to the point where he knows that it’s inevitably gonna go to violence, so he just goes there. Because he’s tried it so many times the other way that its never worked for him. I think even at the beginning when we were discussing the look of Chon, where we were going, I loved the scars, they were huge to me – they’re such a prevalent part of who he is. It’s such a great character to play on so many levels. I haven’t gone this route with a guy who’s this jaded, it was a blast.
The friendship between Chon and Ben is a big part of ‘Savages,’ especially for Chon….
Taylor Kitsch: Definitely. Ben is probably the only person, next to O, that Chon trusts. The only person he can have his guard down with, that he can maybe even laugh around and joke with – get high and let his guard down, get drunk, whatever it is. It’s a rare find for Chon to have somebody like that. Especially at this point in his life where he’s at. Ben really is Chon’s purpose at this point, he’s not a Navy SEAL any more. So his purpose is to protect this business and protect Ben at all costs.
I found the dynamic between Dennis and both Chon and Ben interesting, the trust issues….
John Travolta: Yeah. Dennis has an attitude towards Chon, but Ben is kind of the altruistic character so he knows Ben’s got a softer side. But still at the end of the day, they’re still in criminal behaviour. They all are. So you’re basically dealing with a bunch of criminals confronting each other and all of the dubious behaviour that can include. So even though you may like each other at moments, you don’t trust each other ultimately. So Ben and Chon don’t trust Dennis, and Dennis doesn’t trust them.
This film is energetic and relentless, how was it for you to actually work on?
Taylor Kitsch: We had a lot of fun, it was very intense to be on. And I think you feel all of that in the film. I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people, it really will – in a great way! And we were just saying, these films don’t get made. It’s rare. It was so fulfilling as an actor to be on something like this.
John Travolta: This is Oliver Stone at his best. ‘Savages’ is quintessential Oliver Stone. The writing, the directing, the tone, his care for performances. It’s current, it matters, this movie says something yet it entertains like crazy. And yet through all of this current events, political overtones, violence, sexiness… there’s this question of what will you do for love? This movie is really about what these two guys will do for love. If you underbelly it all with that, that’s an amazing combination (laughs).
What do you think Oliver Stone brought to this film with his direction and writing?
Aaron Johnson: I think the book gave great potential and I think Oliver tapped into that and brought it into now. Like John says, ‘Savages’ is dealing with issues that are very contemporary, with the Mexican cartel and the drug war, all of that. I think it brings the two sort of unlikely characters into that world. In a journey of love. But I think his way of telling a story, that’s what is genius. Tying up all of these loose ends and all the twists in it that he brought together. It’s very original.
Taylor Kitsch: I think what Oliver did so well and so thoroughly was intertwine it, yeah, but these guys have so much to play with as well with Lado, with Dennis, with Elena. That’s what I loved about it. It’s not just Ben, Chon and O, you’re going through Dennis’ life, you’re going through Lado’s, with what he’s dealing with at home. I think that’s what makes the movie way more stronger in my opinion.
Aaron Johnson: Yeah, he goes really in-depth with each character. There’s a back-story and a reason for it. He won’t move forward until he’s got an answer, and one that can be interesting. It has a lot of depth.
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