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What does it take for a man to be remembered thousands of years after his death? In the case of ALEXANDER THE GREAT, it took 8 years of warfare, a 22,000 mile journey through deserts, mountains and jungles, a brilliant military mind, and unrelenting brutality, to conquer 90% of the known world by the time he was 25. Incredibly, and possibly unique in the annals of military history, Alexander was never defeated in battle. But who was he really, the living, breathing Alexander-not the myth, but the man? History cannot tell us very much, but perhaps the cinematic magic of Hollywood, and the powerful director Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, Platoon), can.

“The beauty of Alexander is that he won,” says Stone. “He’ll always be known for at least two reasons – that he conquered the world without ever suffering a military defeat, and as a visionary and a man of remarkable and generous spirit. He was perhaps the greatest warrior of all time, greater than his mythic heroes Achilles and Herakles. He grew up under the influence of these mythological Greek figures (his mother told him he was the son of the Greek God Zeus) and he believed in them as no other child. Out of that belief and faith grew this monumental drive and destiny, which he actually achieved.”

Set in Alexander’s pre-Christian world of social customs and morals far different from today’s, Alexander explores a time of unmatched beauty and unbelievable brutality, of soaring ideals and staggering betrayals. The sets, including recreations of the ancient cities of Babylon with its hanging gardens, and Alexandria and the brilliant costumes make the fantasy of a long-gone way of life appear real. The film takes a bold, honest look at Alexander’s life and his relationships with his mother, Olympias (Angelina Jolie), his father Philip (Val Kilmer), his lifelong friend and battle commander Hephaistion (Jared Leto), Roxane, his ambitious and beautiful wife (Rosario Dawson), and his trusted general and confidant Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins).

Author Robin Lane Fox, a fellow of New College, Oxford, whose 1972 biography of Alexander has sold more than a million copies, was tapped by Stone as historical advisor. “I first met Oliver three years ago in London,” Lane Fox recalls, “and he bombarded me with questions, a process that went on for months. He wanted to understand everything from how Greeks would behave at a dinner party to what Aristotle meant to Alexander. One of the fascinations about Alexander is the gaps in what we can know – they give such scope for the imagination.”

Stone doesn’t see the story of Alexander as belonging solely to the ancient world. “The incredible thing about Alexander was that he knew all of the Greek myths, and then acted them out in his real life. He had a lot of demon drives that modern people have, and one of my hopes is that the movie will bring back some sense of history- that there were other times and places, empires that ruled the earth and men who were great dreamers and visionaries. Everyone, especially young people now, should be given a sense of history and the possibility of idealism; that should never be corrupted.”

Stone continues, “Like Alexander, Colin has the spirit of a rebel and the confidence of a warrior and a leader. He became Alexander on many levels – he led the actors as a group, he built himself up physically, mastered the horse and sword, and fought like a lion to give his best. I often offered to replace him with a stuntman, both on horse and foot, but he truly wanted to hang in there himself and do as many of his own stunts as possible. As crazy as he might be sometimes, he is one of nature’s noblemen. He’s got a lot of Alexander in him, and it was easy for us to see Colin in that part.” “Colin was Alexander,” concurs Rosario Dawson, who was cast by Stone as Princess Roxane, Alexander’s first wife. “Colin’s just got that presence, and you can see the Pied Piper in him."

TO CONTINUE READING, TURN THE PAGE / Issue 42 - September 2018
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