Oliver Stone is in Venice this year to debut his latest documentary, Nuclear. Written alongside political scholar Joshua S. Goldstein, the film sets out to re-examine the role nuclear power can play in our lives and makes the case that the energy source is humanity’s only realistic alternative to fossil fuels in the fight against climate change. Deadline sat down with Stone and Goldstein prior to the film’s premiere on the Lido to discuss why the pair decided to link up and how the lengthy production process almost “took the life” out of Stone.
As always, the JKF and Platoon director is candid in his assessment of politics abroad as well as back home, concluding that climate change will be “the killer of all time” and the United States may fall into a civil war over the FBI investigation into former president Donald Trump. Stone also suggests that his next narrative feature film may be his last.
Nuclear debuts Out of Competition in Venice on September 9. The Gersh Agency is handling world sales. Deadline can also share an exclusive clip from the documentary below.
DEADLINE: Nuclear. How did this film come together?
JOSHUA S. GOLDSTEIN: I’m an international relations professor, and I got into climate change about eight years ago and quickly realized nuclear power was the key. I then teamed up with a Swedish nuclear engineer called Staffan Qvist and wrote a book that came out three years ago about how France and Sweden quickly decarbonized their grids by using nuclear. And out of that, we wrote an op-ed in the New York Times. Oliver saw that op-ed, and then he read my book. I asked him about making it into a film, and that’s where it all started.
OLIVER STONE: This is a highly technical subject that’s not my forte. I wanted to do this because I’ve been bothered by climate change ever since I saw the Al Gore film [An Inconvenient Truth] in 2006. It’s obviously clear that something is going on. What I saw in recent pictures of the rivers in Germany and France and it’s the worst drought in 500 years. It’s frightening. There’s nothing worse than climate change. It’s gonna be the killer of all time. Nothing compares to it.
DEADLINE: How was production on the doc? How long have you been working on it?
STONE: From my point of view, it’s been a pain in the ass. This has been the most difficult thing I’ve worked on. I’ve never had to make so many changes because I couldn’t get it right. Joshua would nitpick me to death. I’d send them a cut, and you can’t believe the notes. I mean, nitpicking, it’s the kind of stuff that makes you go crazy, like a graduate student in some college. But Josh was a very patient teacher. And I think we got most of it down. I think the film is clear for a large audience, but because it’s so controversial, it was really important to get the story right. To not have any errors in it because people would jump down our throats if there were any mistakes. There’s a huge ‘what if’ audience out there.
DEADLINE: Are you nervous about how the film will be received?
STONE: Well, the worst thing that can happen is we do nothing. It just bounces off another documentary. I’ve spent two years on this, which I don’t like to do. I didn’t do a feature film. I just did this. I would love to see the United States government put the same amount of money into nuclear as they put into renewables.
GOLDSTEIN: The extraordinary thing about nuclear power is that it has support from both parties. However, there is some division within the Biden administration. My sense is they don’t wanna make a big deal of nuclear right now before the midterm elections because they want to keep their party together and not highlight the issues that divide the Bernie Sanders wing of the party from the Biden wing.
DEADLINE: How are you thinking about distribution for Nuclear? Do you want it to be theatrical?
STONE: This is not a film you make for profit, unfortunately. This is the kind of film you just hope for the widest possible audience over a period of time. We show it first in Venice, which is a good place to start, but we have to make the best distribution deal in the United States. Whoever wants it theatrically is welcome to it. We would certainly cooperate. It plays well on a big screen, but if it just goes to television, I’d be more than happy. I want it to be on Hungarian television. I want it to be on Slovenian television. I want it everywhere.
DEADLINE: The documentary has a lot of behind-the-scenes footage from nuclear plants. How did you gain access to the plants?
STONE: We did it step by step. The United States government was the most scared because, for them, it’s a political issue. To openly tout nuclear is still problematic. So we worked our way into the Idaho National lab, which is the most modern and research-oriented place in the United States. We managed to pull that off without going to the department of energy. The French were very cooperative. The Russians were very cooperative. Of course, I’ve made a few documentaries in Russia, so they were very open.
DEADLINE: Talking generally about politics, what do you think about everything going on right now with Donald Trump and the FBI?
STONE: I think they may have something here. Something may come of it. They do wanna stop him from running, but there’s gonna be a reaction, you know? I can’t predict what’s gonna happen. Maybe a civil war. You guys in the press would love that.
DEADLINE: Oliver, What are you planning on doing next?
STONE: Solving climate change. And I’m working on a screenplay for another film. I’m an older man. I’m not gonna put the same amount of energy into all these films as I did. If I make one more feature film, that’d be great. As to documentaries, I don’t know. This one almost took the life out of me. It’s just too much work, but I’m very proud of it. And I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done.