Most directors like to compare making movies with going to war, but few have pushed the parallel quite as far as Oliver Stone. As a young man, American cinema’s champion shit-stirrer signed up for voluntary duty in Vietnam because, as he told Uncut 30 years later, “I was looking for death”. He may have returned home with medals and injuries, but Stone has remained at war ever since – with his violently divided country, with his vociferous critics, and with rival versions of the truth.

A burly intellectual bruiser who earned his first movie credits as a cocaine-snorting, Oscar-winning screenwriter in the late 1970s, Stone’s densely packed, explosively energetic movies walk a fine line between historical fact and hysterical speculation. Wrestling with huge themes such as US involvement in Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination and the media-made cult of celebrity killers, Stone is never less than provocative.

Frequently branded anti-American by right-wing commentators, Stone’s face even appeared alongside George Clooney, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and others on the infamous “weasels” cards of high-profile Iraq war dissenters. In reality, the director maintains a love-hate relationship with his superpower homeland, paying homage to the bruised glory of Richard Nixon and NFL football one minute, then controversially interviewing Fidel Castro for a TV documentary that remains banned from US television. His forthcoming $150 million epic Alexander, his biggest feature yet, proves Stone is back on barnstorming blockbuster form. The warrior king marches into battle once more.

“It seems no matter what I do I create controversy,” Stone told Uncut in 2003. “If I do *U-Turn*, they criticise me for that. *Any Given Sunday*, how can you be more American than a football movie? But I’m still in trouble for having revealed the dark side of that. I hate controversy. I just want to make good movies, I really do. And you don’t need controversy to make a good film.”

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