Stephen Colbert and Oliver Stone spar over Vladimir Putin

“Let’s talk about Vladimir Putin.”

And thus began what ultimately became a sometimes tense conversation between Stephen Colbert and Oliver Stone on Monday’s “The Late Show.”

The “JFK” and “Platoon” filmmaker was on to discuss his new Showtime series, “The Putin Interviews,” which began airing Monday night. The four-episode series distills more than 20 hours of conversations that Stone had with the Russian president over the course of two years.

Colbert noted that Stone has gotten some criticism for being too “cozy” with his subject. Stone demurred that it was politeness to an extremely busy man and curiosity about such a captivating figure. It was important, Stone said, that Putin “believed I would give him a fair hearing.”

But when it appeared in a clip from the series that Stone was taking at face value Putin’s dismissal of the notion that the Russians interfered with the presidential election, Colbert pushed him on the point, wondering why he didn’t ask any follow-up questions.

Stone said that later in the series, which continues the next three nights, that he did ask about the hacking specifically and cyber warfare in general.

But as Stone went on to talk about how he was surprised that Putin didn’t seem angry given how he has been “abused” in the press, the audience began to react with groans and laughter. Colbert wondered if it was possible for Stone to be critical of Putin or “does he have your dog in a cage some place?”

Given the director’s ardent support of free speech, Colbert appeared genuinely befuddled by Stone’s seemingly uncritical take on Putin. Stone stressed that watching the entire series would be illuminating.

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