Yes, it's true, the filmmaker behind such unprovocative works as JFK, Natural Born Killers and documentaries venerating Fidel Castro and Hugh Chavez has finally gone contentious with his announcement of a 10-hour docu-series for Showtime titled Secret History of America. We actually heard about the project last August, via TVSquad, but this past weekend Stone and collaborator Peter Kuznick spoke to TV critics in Pasadena at a press conference about the series. And boy did it get ugly.
According to the The Hollywood Reporter, Stone called Adolf Hitler an "easy scapegoat throughout History," used cheaply as such, and later said that "we can't judge people as only 'bad' and 'good.'" Other figures that Stone is reportedly focusing on more 'factually' than has been popular in American history are Joseph Stalin, Chairman Mao, Harry Truman and Joseph McCarthy. It's not specifically said whether these people will be seen in a more positive light or simply more balanced one, but regardless their very mention has caused quite a stir.
"I've been able to walk in Stalin's shoes and Hitler's shoes," Stone told the Television Critics Association, "to understand their point of view. You cannot approach history unless you have empathy for the person you may hate."
Kuznick, a history professor at American University, apparently tried for some damage control by insisting that Secret History of America wouln't really present a positive view of Hitler so much as it will highlight him as a "historical phenomenon." But it may have been too late. Stone's way of saying the series would explain Hitler and Stalin "in context" was already being seen as supportive of these "vilified" dictators.
Stone, who admits Rush Limbaugh won't like his series, went on to defend Barack Obama's first year in office, saying the president has been "trapped" by the system. He also indulged in quips about Sarah Palin. As for Secret History of America, the series does not yet have an airdate, though the filmmaker admits he'd like to one day see the thing screened in schools. I have a feeling a number of parents would disagree with that idea.
Oliver Stone's next feature film, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps opens April 23.