It's fair to say that Oliver Stone has been off his game for a while. Recent output varies from the workmanlike ("World Trade Center") to the disappointing ("W") to the disastrous ("Alexander"), and we're not sure we've unreservedly loved one of his films since 1995's "Nixon." But as our retrospective from last year proved, Stone has produced enough great work in his time that we'll always root for him, and his latest picture, "Savages," is shaping up to be his most promising in decades.
Based on the best-selling crime novel by Don Winslow (whose "The Winter of Frankie Machine" also attracted the attention of Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro), with a script by Winslow, Stone and Shane Salerno, the plot follows a pair of Laguna Beach drug dealers forced to work for a Mexican cartel after the girl they share is kidnapped. Universal are backing the project, and Stone's assembled a mouth-watering cast, including Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch as the leads, Blake Lively as the girl, Uma Thurman as her mother, Salma Hayek as the leader of the cartel, Benicio Del Toro as her main enforcer, John Travolta as a burnt-out DEA agent and Emile Hirsch in an unnamed role. Now, one other performer has joined them, and while perhaps not as big a name as the others, he's a terrific actor all the same.
Variety report that Mexican actor Demian Bichir, best known for his electric performance as Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh's "Che," and for a supporting role opposite Mary-Louise Parker in Showtime's "Weeds," has joined the cast as Alex, a double-crossing attorney who represents Hayek's cartel. Bichir's picking up some mild awards buzz for his performance as an illegal immigrant in Chris Weitz's "A Better Life," which hits in a couple of weeks, so it's clearly the start of even greater things for the actor.
And if the film's a success, it may not be the last we see of the characters: Deadline reported earlier in the week that, after an idea from Salerno, Don Winslow is currently writing a prequel novel to "Savages," which will focus more on the relationship between Kitsch, Johnson and Lively's characters, as well as bringing in characters from the writer's other works, like 'Frankie Machine' and "The Power of the Dog." Winslow's currently writing it, and it's likely to be published alongside the film next year. If the movie is a hit, it's entirely conceivable that the currently untitled book could make its way to the screens down the line as well. Of course, Stone has to pull it off first: production begins on July 6th, and Universal will release "Savages" sometime in 2012.