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Alexander - Oliver Stone Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. What inspired you about Alexander and why did you think it would make a great movie?
A.
He was a hero, he was a hero. But it was really when I read Professor Fox's book in the 1980s that I really understood the man better. I think I began to admire him more and more the more I read it.
So why make the movie? Because he is perhaps the most unique individual in history; more things happened to him of a strange nature, and of an extraordinary nature, than any other human being than I know of. And he was involved in more events and more battles than dozens and dozens of men.
And I think he's a great dramatic figure that has never been really done as a movie.

Q. Did it require a great deal of courage to set out and make this? Because it seems that no matter what the subject you tackle in film, you seem to irritate and annoy a huge section of the public?
A.
I operate on my passion, I move forward on that. Sometimes I'm naive and I don't think about the consequences. 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.
I would think 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, as Professor Fox says, are about a character we don't really know that much about.

Q. And courage?
A.
You be the judge of that.

Q. Why did you choose to focus more on Alexander in battle than some of the personal conflicts?
Angelina Jolie:
That's not true!
Stone: It's interesting that you should raise that question because it points to some of the difficulties in receiving the movie - the opposite has also been put out.
Many reviews mentioned they wished there had been more battles and there was too much talk and too much mother-son, father-son psycho-drama. So, you know, that's a choice. And I think the movie is structured along with two pillars, like an arch. The first one is Gaugamela and the last one is this composite battle, in India, of two major events.
Beyond that, I would have liked to have done the Battle of Colonia, but that would have been the fourth hour of the movie. And I think perhaps it should have been a two-part movie.
Val Kilmer: I disagree.
Angelina Jolie: So do I. For me, for a film that was about someone who is such a soldier and such a fighter, we were all so deeply aware of our characters, so many heavy dramatic scenes, so much deep relationship work, and more so than in most films, but there were also very grand fight scenes and they were very well done. But that's very much who he was.
Kilmer: I would bet between Gladiator, Troy, Thunder..., Braveheart...
Colin Farrell: Thunderbirds!
Kilmer: Thunderbirds, Team America and certainly The Incredibles, even though we're almost three hours, I would bet the actual number of the actual minutes of the fighting was less than any of those.
Professor Robin Lane Fox: This is a film about Alexander, and Alexander unquestionably is the greatest general and the bravest front-line general in world history. You have to emphasis that and show it. And that is what heroism means in the Greek world.
This is the difficulty people have had, they don't understand. We haven't made some crazy film here about armchair suburbia in Morningtide, this is a pre-Christian Greek world, whose depiction of a different morality is very, very strong.

Q. Why did you decide on having this framing device of having Ptolemy as the narrator? And what was it like being reunited with Anthony Hopkins all those years after Nixon?
A.
Well it was a wonderful five days, we worked over in Shepperton in mid-winter, and I think on the last day Anthony went with us for about 18-20 hours straight. He's an amazingly strong man for his age and the dialogue was enormous.
I like the device because it's a humble device. I don't think we really know who Alexander is, and the only way in was through one of the generational devices.
Ptolemy did write memoirs and his were well-known and were read by the six later writers who 300-400 years later posted their memoirs.
But more importantly he's the older man looking at the younger man and if Alexander had lived, I think there's a lot of the bitterness in Ptolemy. He loved Alexander but at the end he admits that he may well have been his murderer. Which is an amazing revelation; it's not the normal epilogue/prologue situation.

Q. You've waited for years and years to make this film and you describe it as your epic. How personally crushed were you by the American reaction and, if you had the chance, what would you change about it?
A.
This for me was a very long process, as it was for the thousands of people who put into this. Everyone put their heart into it and I think I have created something that will last. When I say great epic, it's the epic of my life, because as a film student, you took one genre at a time; I've tried to do political, war, and a finance movie and a sports movie, so you could say this was my costume epic and I always wanted to do one. And every film student generally has those dreams in their mind.
And I am very happy because I was able to choose the one person I most admired for this genre. And I'm very happy with the result and 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 was singled out for her extraordinary performance, and Val, I think, frankly was not properly watched, it was not listened to.
But it is another world to America - as Professor Fox said, it's pre-Christian, the morality is 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 is a raging fundamentalism and morality. And there were figures from day one, in spite of reviews, which meant that the Bible Belt in America did not show up, because there was one word that was all over the media, the word 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! So we did take quite a beating in those states from day one.
Also, Americans don't study ancient history in the same way as the Europeans do. And they're not as familiar with Alexander as other people are.
So, look, it's one setback on a mountain. A movie is a mountain and it goes on and on and on. There will be other versions of it. There are different ways to make the mountain.

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