Share & Connect
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 (‘Battleship’), Blake Lively (‘The Town’), Aaron Johnson (‘Kick-Ass’), John Travolta (‘Pulp Fiction’), Benicio Del Toro (‘Traffic’), Salma Hayek (‘Frida’), Emile Hirsch (‘Into the Wild’) and Demián Bichir (‘A Better Life’). 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, that glittering seaside resort in Orange County, California, is home to the privileged and the bored: Teens with too much free time and disposable income, as well as men and women kept perpetually young by an ample supply of plastic surgeons—all making a weekly pilgrimage to that suburban mecca, the high-end shopping mall. The temperate climate and the sparkling Pacific Coast give it all a faux laid-back sheen. O (Lively) knows all about that. She’s a lovely local who is certainly familiar with her hometown’s homegrown foibles and charms.
O is short for Ophelia…she has her reasons. She’s a unique spirit, as are her housemates—Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Ben (Johnson) and Chon (Kitsch)—an extraordinary trio who share a one-of-a-kind love. Ben, a peaceful, charitable botanist aspires to save the world. His closest friend, Chon, a former Navy SEAL and ex-mercenary, isn’t sure the world is worth saving. Ben, Chon and O keep to themselves and share a special bond…a postmodern family. They enjoy a quiet, well-appointed, free and easy lifestyle, made possible by Ben and Chon’s lucrative business: raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. Independent, fair-minded impresarios with a mind-blowing product, they are local heroes providing a product that people want.
Ben and Chon’s company, naturally, does not remain off the grid for long. Their legendary weed and innovative business model have attracted the keen interest of the Mexican Baja Cartel, headed by the merciless Elena “La Reina” (Hayek), her brutal enforcer, Lado (Del Toro), and her unscrupulous head attorney, Alex (Bichir). Elena demands a partnership with Ben and Chon, and nobody refuses La Reina without sacrificing something they hold dear.
But the Cartel underestimates the unbreakable bond among these three remarkable friends. Ben, Chon and, in her own way, O, wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the drug empire with the reluctant assistance of a dirty DEA agent named Dennis (Travolta) and a crafty accountant called Spin (Hirsch). And so begins a series of increasingly vicious ploys and high-stakes brinksmanship in a savage battle of wills.
From its provocative first chapter to its lyrical last page, Don Winslow’s audacious 2010 novel Savages captivated and stunned audiences and critics alike. Winslow describes that the genesis of his bestselling book was an unusual one: “I was sitting at my desk one day in a bad mood and I typed these two words, which would become the infamous first chapter of the book. Then I wrote 14 pages in a rush, and I e-mailed them to Shane [screenplay co-writer/ executive producer Shane Salerno] and told him, ‘Either these are really good, or I’m just crazy.’ A few minutes later, I got an e-mail from him saying, ‘Drop everything else you’re doing and finish this book while you’re in this voice.’”
Winslow’s novel proved that rules are made to be broken, and he ended up crafting several chapters of Savages in screenplay form. “I was trying to bust out of the typical confines of the crime genre as it’s been defined lately,” Winslow shares. “I threw a few elbows and found moments where I thought, ‘This is better read or experienced as a piece of film rather than as a piece of a novel.’”
Salerno, with whom the author has collaborated for more than 13 years, was glad that he had encouraged Winslow to focus his energy into revisiting a world that the author knew quite well. The executive producer explains: “Don wrote what a lot of people consider to be the definitive source on the subject with ‘The Power of the Dog,’ which is the story of the drug war over 30 years—from the formation of the DEA to 2005. He spent six years researching it down in Mexico, Texas and California. This is terrain that he has chiseled his name into, and it’s a world he knows so well. With Savages, he was prescient in seeing the business move from the Mexican cartels into California. It’s interesting when real-life events start to mirror your worst fears.”
Not only was the book critically well received when it was published—Stephen King called the sexy, action-filled drama “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on autoload”—it was fast-tracked into a screenplay. Reflects Salerno: “The normal route for books, and certainly Don’s previous books, is to sell them straight to a studio. “We made the decision to do something different, and we optioned the book to Oliver Stone directly. We felt that this unique material wouldn’t benefit from traditional development, and it needed special handling. We felt that Oliver would get it and began a collaboration developing it and ultimately writing the screenplay together. From the time the script sold to the time that shooting began, it was about three months, which is unheard of.”
Image Courtesy of Savages