Director Oliver Stone, who has built his career on controversial films like JFK, Platoon and W, is staying true to form with his newest project, The Secret History of America, a 10-part documentary mini-series that will air on Showtime. Stone promises to portray the most vilified people in history “in context.” In addition to highlighting the lesser-known aspects of figures like Hitler and Stalin, the mini-series will also tell the stories of underappreciated people and events that shaped the modern world. There’s no premiere date set, as of yet.
Hit the jump for some quotes from Stone and my thoughts on the project:
Stone seems passionate about showing more well-rounded versions of America’s enemies. Of Hitler he says, “We can’t judge people as only ‘bad’ or ‘good.’ Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply. He’s the product of a series of actions.” He goes on to add, “You cannot approach history unless you have empathy for the person you may hate.” Asking non-skinhead Americans to empathize with Hitler is a hefty task as he is generally agreed upon as being the worst person. Ever. But the series’ head writer, Peter Kuznick is quick to point out that empathy is not the same as admiration. He says, “[Stone's] not saying we’re going to come out with a more positive view of Hitler, but we’re going to describe him as a historical phenomenon.”
Oliver Stone is capable of making good movies that have nothing to do with history (see: Natural Born Killers) but the man clearly owes a lot of his fame and money to controversial portrayals of American history. Stone’s politics make him a polarizing figure. People either love him or hate him, but he makes undeniably enthralling films. JFK with all of its inaccuracies and fabricated drama was entertaining despite starring Kevin Costner. Oliver Stone may revel in political controversy, but the man does it extremely well. If anyone has the clout and talent to pull off a more human portrayal of the most evil figure in history, then it’s Stone.