Can Oliver Stone show us the human side of Hitler?

Director describes subject of his new project as 'easy scapegoat'

Oliver Stone has never been one to spot a historical controversy without steaming towards it, but the latest project from the film-maker behind
JFK and
W threatens to pitch him into more dangerously hot water than ever before.

The director is battening down the hatches already, saying he fully expects "ignorant attacks" on a new documentary series in which he is promising to "liberalise" Hitler and to finger US corporations for their role in the rise of National Socialism in Germany.

Launching Oliver Stone's Secret History of America, the director promised to lay bare the military-industrial complex his fictionalised movie JFK blamed for a conspiracy to kill one president, and which Stone now says is trapping Barack Obama into the errors of his predecessors.

"I don't want to put out a conventional History Channel product where it's easy to like it," the 63-year-old director said. "You cannot approach history unless you have empathy for the person you may hate.

"I've been able to walk in Stalin's shoes and Hitler's shoes to understand their point of view. We're going to educate our minds and liberalise them and broaden them. We want to move beyond opinions ... go into the funding of the Nazi party. How many American corporations were involved, from GM through IBM? Hitler is just a man who could have easily been assassinated."

Stone unveiled a trailer for his Secret History at the Television Critics Association's biannual press tour in Pasadena, California, and even his collaborators appeared nervous. As the director promised empathy with leaders who ordered mass murder, Peter Kuznick, the history professor drafted in as lead writer, leapt in to clarify: "He'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 and not just somebody who appeared out of nowhere." Stone promised not to judge historical figures as "bad" or "good" and countered: "Obviously, Rush Limbaugh is not going to like this history. As usual, we're going to get those kind of ignorant attacks."

After winning two Oscars for a series of films about the Vietnam War, Stone turned his revisionist history lens on US presidents, from a more complex "Tricky Dicky" in Nixon, to a privileged, disengaged George W Bush in W. And as a documentary maker, he has courted controversy before with plans for biopics of US bogeymen such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Last year, he walked the red carpet with the socialist president at the Venice Film Festival for the premiere of the documentary South of the Border. He has also long pursued Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran in the hope of making a film about his life and presidency. Stone's forthcoming 10-part series ranges over subjects the director says have been "under-reported", taking in President Harry Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, and the origins and the end of the Cold War. Stalin, too, is getting a makeover, according to Stone.

"Stalin, Hitler, Mao, McCarthy – these people have been vilified pretty thoroughly by history. Stalin has a complete other story. Not to paint him as a hero, but to tell a more factual representation. He fought the German war machine more than any single person."

Hitler has been "an easy scapegoat" throughout history for forces that were bigger than one man, Stone says, and – warming to the theme in Pasadena – he said that the same complex of interests between corporations and the military were still at work today.

"You can understand why Obama is following in Bush's footsteps in Afghanistan," he said. "Obama is very much trapped, we believe, in that system. And so that's what we're going to try and show you: the way it works."

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all