Oliver Stone defended his soft approach interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin to Stephen Colbert on The Late Show Monday. Stone's new four-part documentary, The Putin Interviews, debuted June 12th and continues through the 15th on Showtime.
Stone interviewed Putin more than a dozen times over two years – an unprecedented amount of access for a Western interviewer. Colbert noted that many have criticized the director for being "too cozy" with the Russian President. Stone insisted he was merely polite and respectful. When Colbert pressed the director on Russia's interference in the 2016 election and Putin's history of running an oppressive strongman regime, Stone's hardly had a negative comment.
"I think you should see the film for yourself," Stone told Colbert. "He's the Head of State, he has his own interests of Russia, I respect him for that and I understand why he's doing it. He's a strong nationalist. He went through a history of 16 years, since 2000 until now, outlining what the relationship with the U.S. has been. I never heard him badmouth the U.S. I heard him try to reach and have a relationship. He called them our partners repeatedly … He really wants, still, a partnership. There is a strong feeling that he can still have a relationship with the U.S. I felt very genuine about that."
Stone spoke of Putin's devotion to Russia, praised his calmness and courtesy and then offered this sympathetic take: "He never really badmouthed anybody. He's been through a lot. He's been insulted and abused." When the audience laughed at this, Stone qualified, "Abused in the press, in the media. I didn't sense any anger about that."
Colbert then asked Stone frankly if he found anything negative about Putin, joking, "Or does he have your dog in a cage some place?"
While Stone argued that a detente between the U.S. and Russia would be a good thing, Colbert pushed back, noting Putin's willingness to crack down on the free press and arrest his enemies. Ultimately, Stone said that The Putin Interviews would speak for itself.
"Everything is above board," he said. "These things were — has he murdered a man? I don't know how to ask that question. I've looked at the evidence too. If I believed it, I'd go after him."