It’s somehow appropriate that Oliver Stone has chosen a hotel just a few blocks from the Agriculture Department to talk about his new project. “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States,” a documentary series that debuts Monday on Showtime, focuses on Henry A. Wallace — former agriculture and commerce secretary, as well as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice president — as its protagonist over the first three installments, which suggest that the Midwestern statesman would have put America on a radically different trajectory had his path to the presidency not been blocked by Democratic Party leaders in 1944.
Stone’s interest in Wallace was sparked during a 1996 visit to American University, where history professor and “Untold History” co-writer Peter Kuznick was teaching a course called “Oliver Stone’s America.” At dinner that night, Kuznick “was talking about the atomic bomb and how it got started and the scientists and Henry Wallace,” Stone recalled Friday, “but I wasn’t in the mood to take on the establishment again, because ‘Nixon’ had not done as well commercially as I had hoped. That was a big effort, it had wiped me out. But [the Wallace episode] was a dark and difficult story, really good. It stayed with me.” Ten years later, Stone visited Kuznick’s class again. “I said, ‘Look, I can’t get that story out of my mind. Let’s do a documentary, an hour or an hour and a half.’ And unfortunately, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.”