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.

In ’Savages’ you play Lado, this lethal enforcer for Elena’s Baja Cartel. When we meet him he’s growing increasingly disgruntled by his demanding boss….

Benicio Ddel Toro: Yeah. Lado is a psychopath that works under a Mexican drug Cartel, under Elena – who’s played by Salma Hayek. He’s her man up north, he’s been up in the United States in California and Southern California for sometime. And yes, he’s starting to get a big head of how to run things. When ‘Savages’ starts and how the story evolves, he starts to be more independent, in breaking away from his boss. And with them going after Ben and Chon, they see the potential of building an Empire, the Mexican drug Cartel wants it. There’s a lot of layers to it.

How was it to play this brutal, yet strangely human character who shoots detractors in the kneecaps, executes loyal henchmen…? And what was it like working with Oliver Stone on this character and film in general?

Benicio del Toro: When you hear the accounts of the real people who have been involved in those situations or have been victims in the drug war, when you hear the stories of the people on both sides, it brings seriousness to the story, which helped keep everybody focused. I think Oliver Stone is one of those directors who brings his A-game whether he succeeds or not. He brings his A-game whether the movie makes money or not. He was on the ball all of the time. Working with him, he was always on point the whole time. He knew what he wanted. He pushed people to try to be the best that they could. And he has different ways of doing that. Oliver’s like a coach who coaches to win. He’s watching and listening to every play; he’s got that replay on in his brain. He knows the scenes inside and out. He will poke at you. He will make you mad, and then he’ll poke at you again. Then your blood will really be pumping, and then he will smile at you (laughs). And then you do the scene, and you don’t know what you did. But when you see it, and it works, you understand why you want to work with Oliver Stone.

In ‘Savages’ you play a tough guy, but how was it facing down Salma Hayek as Elena – she might be even tougher?

Benicio del Toro: Yeah, I got the slaps, slaps with a tripe “s” (laughs)! She’s great, she’s funny, she brought that to the character. When people see ‘Savages,’ they’ll see that she brings some comedy to it. And it works. It makes it really interesting; like with the scene where Salma Hayek and Blake Lively are talking, it’s a great scene, some great lines, “You know, there’s something wrong with your love story honey.” She’s a very layered character as well, the whole movie is layers. There’s a love story, there’s the bing bing bing and the boom boom boom, there’s a lot to it.

And I know you were a big fan of John Travolta?

Benicio del Toro: Working with John Travolta….you know, I’m a John Travolta fan from ‘Grease’ on. I never saw ‘Saturday Night Fever’ in the movie theatre, the first movie I saw was ‘Grease,’ and it was one of those movies where I was 11 or 12, it was the first movie that pulled me out of my seat. Like totally. I was dancing, and it brought all the kids, we used to all go and see that movie and dance in the hallways, do the strut (laughs). So now here I am, 30 years later working with John Travolta, it’s great. We did have a good time, I really enjoyed working with him. I was a big fan, that’s like a picture – the memory goes in the biography, it’s one of those (laughs). A greatest hits!