Feature by: Jack Foley
OLIVER Stone has long been considered one of Hollywood's most
controversial directors, in the light of films such as JFK and
But even he admits to being taken aback by the fierceness of
the criticism surrounding his latest epic, Alexander, in America.
The US media roundly slated the movie, with many labelling it
But speaking at a London press conference, held at the Dorchester
Hotel on the eve of the film's UK premiere, Stone insisted he
remained proud of his achievement even if the criticism still
"I operate on my passion, I move forward on that. Sometimes
I'm naive and I don't think about the consequences," he told
"I did not think about the consequences on the JFK murder,
and I was very surprised because it had been out of the news for
many years and it suddenly did become a tsunami in its own way,
and I couldn't see it coming.
"But I would have thought that Alexander would be a safe
subject because it's an ancient one, and I was quite taken aback
by the controversy and the fierceness of the reviews that were
about a character we don't really know that much about."
His views were echoed by the film's historical advisor, Professor
Robin Lane Fox, who went so far as to describe some of the opinions
expressed as 'fifth rate'.
He insisted that the movie 'is an epic drama with unusually strong
reference to history'.
And he continued:"It's all very well for you critics to
say 'why didn't you put in this, why didn't you put in the other'?
But Oliver [Stone] has spun a drama, to take a very grand example,
in the way that Shakespeare would have spun a drama around Henry
"Yet there is still a terrific amount of historical reference...
One of the lines in the film that I've heard people laugh at most
is probably one of the few things we know attributed to Alexander.
"When he read a letter from what we now know to have been
Angelina Jolie, he said 'she asks a high price, a high rent for
nine months in the womb'. I heard an audience laugh in America
and that is the one line that we know in ancient sources is attributed
When pressed even further about the
US reaction, or whether, with hindsight, he might change anything
about the film, he replied:
"No. This was the movie I chose to make and I am very happy
because I was able to choose the one person I most admired for
"And I'm very proud of it. I think Colin Farrell's work
is extraordinary and will be appreciated more and more through
time, because I know that he took some very tough reviews in America;
Angelina [Jolie] was singled out for her extraordinary performance,
and Val [Kilmer], I think, frankly was not properly watched, his
performance was not listened to.
"But it is another world to America - it's pre-Christian
and the morality is very different.
"Sexuality is a very large issue in America right now, and
having come from 20 foreign countries over the last two months,
I can tell you that it was not an issue in those countries, but
it was an issue in America.
"There were figures in America from day one, in spite of
reviews, who said things which meant that the Bible Belt in America
did not show up, becauseof the one word that was all over the
media - Alex the Gay.
"As a result, you can bet your arse that people in America
were not going to see a film about a military leader who has got
something wrong with him - in their head. General Schwarzkopf
was not gay!
"But look, it's one setback on a mountain; a movie is a
mountain and it goes on and on and on, and I will continue to
work on it across the DVD formats."
The film's star, Colin Farrell, was also keen to stress that
the movie was far more complex than some critics had given it
He candidly admitted that friends had told him, since watching
it, that 'Jesus Christ, man, it wasn't exactly Gladiator!'
But he believes it is one of the film's strengths: "The
film is a draining experience to watch. It's loaded with mythology,
icons, symbolism, belief, faith, destiny.... huge questions and
it's filled with these things.
"I love Gladiator, you know, but it was a draining read,
this script. It took me four hours to read the thing, when it
usually takes me between an hour or two.
"But I sat down and I took my time for four hours to try
and understand and interpret the story that Oliver wanted to tell.
"At the end of the day, the journey of Alexander as a man,
as a human being, as a force of nature is just one of the most
heartbreaking, incredible and inspiring things I'd ever read."
It now remains to be seen whether UK audiences will feel the