A/V Room









Alexander - I was quite taken aback by the controversy and the fierceness of the reviews...

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 Nixon.

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 a disaster.

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 hurt.

"I operate on my passion, I move forward on that. Sometimes I'm naive and I don't think about the consequences," he told journalists, defiantly.

"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 VIII.

"Yet there is still a terrific amount of historical reference...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 to Alexander."

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 this genre.

"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 credit for.

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 same.

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