When Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, and Salma Hayek became attached to Oliver Stone’s Savages, I was intrigued. Two young marijuana growers — one laid back, one a cold killer — share a girlfriend named Ophelia (they love one another through her, get it?). They are profitable and happy. But their success causes them to run afoul of the sexy matriarch of the Baja cartel, Elena. She kidnaps their girl, twists and turns ensue, and much blood is spilled.
But now the cast seems…crowded. Last night, Deadline announced that John Travolta and Uma Thurman signed on as a burned out DEA Agent and Ophelia’s mom, respectively. Girl-of-the-moment Blake Lively is attached to play Ophelia, though other reports have her still in talks.
Today, Variety reports that Emile Hirsch and Benicio Del Toro have signed. It’s not clear what role Hirsch is playing, but Del Toro is Lado, Elena’s vicious enforcer.
Now, I love ensemble casts. I miss the days of the 1960s and 1970s when egos were smaller, and many big stars would share the screen together in fantastic movies. Those days aren’t past, exactly. In fact, we’ve seen a pretty neat resurgence of them in the 2000s with the Ocean’s series, Harry Potter, The Dark Knight and Inception, The Town , Red…and so on. Big stars can work together!
Oliver Stone has always been one for enormous casts. Lately, they haven’t been serving him as well, which is what worries me here. I haven’t read the book — debating how I might like to experience this thrill ride — so I don’t know how big a part a burned out DEA Agent or Ophelia’s Mom plays. But I can’t help but look at a mom character, and wonder whether that’s the sort of idling moment or two that needs to be trimmed for a film, and whether you need someone of Thurman’s stature to play her.
I’m still really intrigued by the movie — I miss grown-up thrillers; I miss them bad — but Savages is starting to look a little breathless and cluttered. I hope I’m wrong, and it’s one of those stories where you really did need Travolta as a burned out DEA Agent, and not a Clark Gregg type.