By Ken Tucker
Updated December 11, 2008 at 08:55 PM EST

What is it with Oliver Stone and radical politics south of the border? The writer-director who helped create the most famous Cuban gangster (with his script for Scarface) and cozied up to Fidel Castro in his documentary Commandante, is following up W. with another doc: a portrait of Venezuela’s controversial president Hugo Chavez, reports Variety.

Saying he wants to explore “the South American revolution,” Stone has been spending time with Chavez, and the director was around when Chavez helped negotiate hostages from the militant Colombian FARC group. Stone knows from Colombia — as he told me for my new book Scarface Nation (plug, plug), he spent time there in the early ’80s, doing research that included hanging out with drug dealers and sampling their wares (snort, snort) before getting “stone cold sober” and writing Scarface in Paris.

But back to Chavez: Why is Stone so interested in a guy who’s been accused of corruption, a supposed champion of socialist democracy who’s been criticized for his own repressive tactics against his critics? What is it about Stone that makes him leap from a calm, even-handed project like his drama World Trade Center to W., a kind of editorial-cartoon of a biopic, to documentaries about some pretty hardcore revolutionaries?

If you say money, I say, c’mon, how much dough do you think he’ll actually rake in for a Chavez doc? If you say propagating a left-wing agenda, I say this Vietnam vet knows how to play the conservative-Hollywood-business game all too well to be a total lefty. Could it be that Stone just has an insatiable curiosity about current events and doesn’t want to squander the rest of his career trying to get financing to make whatever the next comic-book movie is in the pipeline? (“Oliver Stone’s Blue Beetle“? I don’t think so…) Admire him or hate him, you gotta admit, Stone charts his own course, and goes his own way. But like all pop culture, PopWatchers, the question is, how many of us will go with him?

addCredit(“Stone: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images; Chavez: RIA Novosti/AP Photo”)