ANNENBERG BEACH HOUSE — Oliver Stone is never far from controversy.
So perhaps it would be natural for a group as controversial as Occupy L.A. to approach him for some practical advice.
During an interview with Stone at the Annenberg Beach House conducted Thursday night by David Talbot, founder and CEO of online liberal magazine Salon, a woman who identified herself as part of Occupy L.A. stood up and asked Stone how the movement could create lasting and positive change through the media.
Stone rubbed his temples briefly and admitted it was a complicated question that required a complicated answer.
The Occupy movement was only one of the topics covered during the interview, which was part of Salon’s “American Spring Series,” which aims to further Salon’s offline presence through events.
History was the main topic of the interview, and a quick glance at Stone’s filmography shows that the director of “JFK” and “Nixon” is no stranger to the more delicate parts of America’s past.
“I regard Oliver as an intrepid explorer of history and truth,” Talbot said before launching the interview into a discussion on honesty in American history.
Stone touched on “The Untold History of the United States,” an upcoming show that he created for Showtime.
The show will focus on American history in the first half of the 20th century, Stone said, and look at figures in American history that are usually passed over by textbooks.
While Stone did not discuss specifics about the show, he mentioned Major Gen. Smedley Butler and Vice President Henry Wallace as being fascinating and key figures that are often overlooked.
“These people are not known to the younger generation,” he said.
Stone said that he hopes, if nothing else, he can impact education, and give students another source of information on American history.
“I think of all the children who grew up with it,” Stone said of history the way its usually presented. “It’s us at the center of the world.”
“We’re trying to say this is not true,” he said.
Stone’s alternative looks towards the past have garnered him negative media attention before.
“I can’t think of a film maker who came under the firestorm you came under in 1991,” Talbot said, referencing Stone’s political thriller “JFK,” and its conspiratorial handling of the John F. Kennedy assassination.
“Liberal, conservative and center journalists came after you,” he said.
Stone said that the creation of that film was carefully researched, but members of the media, during interviews on shows like “Nightline” and “60 Minutes,” didn’t see it that way.
“Dan Rather, he asked me 20 loaded questions,” Stone said.
Stone has noted the harsh treatment that he and other political dissidents have received from governments and media throughout American history and in other parts of the world.
Stone went on to say that dissidents in America could learn courage from those in Central and South America.
Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Evo Morales all displayed strength and were unafraid to back down when faced by the media, Stone said.
“They had balls, that’s all I can say.”
However, with the growth of literacy and free communication, the future looks bright, Stone said.
“This is a changing world. It gives me hope,” he said.
Fellow dissidents, members of the Occupy movement seemed to be looking for guidance, and self identified members came from as far away as Italy to ask Stone what his advice on creating and sustaining change would be.
Stone said that tenacity, something he believes the movement possesses, is key.
Stone also stressed keeping the Occupy movement in the media, which could be used as a tool of positive awareness.
“The title is good, the media likes it,” he said.
“But they’ve been very nasty to you guys,” Stone said.
Stone, citing his Buddhist background, stressed peaceful protests as a vehicle for change.
Stone warned members that they might encounter police brutality and pepper spray, but that even that could be used to their advantage.
“People will be disgusted by that because you’ll be nonviolent,” Stone said.
“And keep out the thugs.”