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Epic Drama <i>Alexander</i> Revisits Intriguing Historical Figure

  • Alan Silverman

Irish-born Colin Farrell stars as one of the great figures of ancient history in an epic drama written and directed by Oscar winning filmmaker Oliver Stone. Alan Silverman has a look at Alexander.

Twenty-five centuries ago, the Macedonian warrior-king Alexander led his army to conquer lands and peoples stretching from the Mediterranean across the Middle East to South Asia: what European historians later called "the known world."

The bold battlefield commander and visionary monarch was only 32 when he died amid intrigues that would splinter his empire. Colin Farrell says his research into the history and the intricately detailed script by Oliver Stone helped him create, not a superhero, but a very human character who understood fear.

"Alexander was a mortal man, whether he at times perceived himself [or was told] that he was the son of Zeus and godlike in his existence, at the end of the day, you cut him and he bled," Farrell says. "You betrayed him and you broke his heart. These were things that he feared. He didn't fear his own mortality and he certainly didn't fear death. If anything, he raced toward it with a head of steam; but he did fear betrayal. He feared that he would never find love. He feared lack of trust in his life. He feared being alone. He feared not having a son and heir to the throne. He feared failure . . . and all these things drove him on with the passion and the gusto that he had to achieve what he did in life."

Angelina Jolie co-stars as Olympias, the manipulative mother of Alexander.

"I think she is not different than I would be if I lived at that time. She was at a time when women had no rights, when being a mother meant you were the vessel to carry a child and that's all you were," Jolie says. :"If Alexander did not become king, they would have been exiled or killed. So I think she was a survivor in a very dark and brutal time. Her way of being actually makes sense to me. It's not so crazy. A modern person could tell her son 'just do what you want to do and what love.' She had to say 'you can't. You have a destiny and you must be strong.' "

The cast also features Val Kilmer as Philip of Macedon - the father of Alexander - Rosario Dawson plays his fiery Persian bride Roxana; and Jared Leto is his lifelong friend Hephaistion. Some protests have been lodged against the film for its clear implication that the two were also lovers; and, while historians note that bisexuality was not uncommon in the ancient, pre-Christian world, Colin Farrell agrees with the choice not to show their physical relationship.

"What you do is you make a choice and decide what is important to see. I agree that Hephaistion and Alexander should not have been shown in a sexual situation because the relationship was not anything to do with sexuality," he says. "The relationship was built on pure and absolute love and friendship from a very young age to their final breaths. People make such a thing about sex that they'll just judge it as that; and we wanted the relationship to be something more beautiful than that - something pure. Although it was hinted at with lines like 'stay with me tonight Hephaistion' and 'you're the one I love, the only one I've ever wanted,' we didn't want to hit the nail on the head or have people squirming in their seats. We wanted them to be able to appreciate the love between the two men. "

Writer/director Oliver Stone says the film does not try to draw parallels to the modern political world; he says the historical facts do that all by themselves.

"Alexander is an old, old story. It's 2500 years old. There is a reason people remember him: primarily because he was not only seen as a military conqureror-genius, but as a man of compassion who could weep for his dead soldiers on the battlefield - the first king known to do so," explains Stone. "He was a man who had generosity of vision, who was inclusive in his policies, culturally and religiously. He brought the Greek way to the East and, at the same time, he incorporated the Eastern way of life into the Greek way. There was a beauty to his concept. You could say that he was the last Greek and after him came the Romans. The Romans used his idea of Empire. The Greeks are the prototypes of the Americans and democracy; and the English culture takes a lot from the Greeks."

Alexander was shot in locations from Morocco to Thailand. English historian and noted Alexander expert Robin Lane Fox served as technical advisor; and the musical score is by Oscar-winning Greek-born composer Vangelis.

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