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INT: Oliver Stone


It's easy to see why Oliver Stone would be attracted to the story of Alexander the Great. It has all the stuff Stoneís films are known for:conspiracies, betrayals, corruption, lust for power, and much more. But while his other films were epic only in terms of running time, ALEXANDER is truly epic in all respects, chronicling the young kingís relentless quest to conquer the known world, a quest that took him as far as India before his soldiers finally refused to go any further.

Oliver Stone stopped by the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles last week to talk about making Alexander. Heís one of the most fascinating guys Iíve ever interviewed, and one of the most difficult to keep up with. This guy has so much going on in his head that he doesn't have room for extraneous things, like verbs. Yes, transcribing his interview may have been difficult, but well worth it. You gotta love a guy who can correlate the advent of DVDs with the end of capitalism. Check it out.


Letís talk about history versus drama. When do you sacrifice one for the other?

Itís a very interesting question. You could talk a half hour on it, but letís start with two exceptions. Roxanne, nobody knows anything about the history, sheís a couple of paragraphs really. I asked myself, "Why. Why marry this girl after ten years, piss off the entire army, integrate to this degree?" Thereís no Macedonian heir, he has a son, finally after three years of embarrassment, he has a son. And then he dies, as he promised, within eight months of his lover Hephaestion, his closest friend, as he vowed. And then he abandons his son by dying, and think two or three months before his son was born, and of course heís assigning them to death, he has to know it.

Thatís what motivated me to do that crazy scene where heís trying to kill her, which we know nothing of. Thatís invention. Iím saying, "Look, he wanted to kill her because my poor, poor ill-fated son. It was Heracles, the throwing the boy in the fire, the madness of Heracles, when you destroy your children, he lived out that myth. Thatís the kind of working out that you donít find in history. Iím within my rights to do it, you know why, because Roxanne, according to Pluto -- everythingís "according to" -- poisoned Satara and called her, in fact to the palace, within 24 or 48 hours of Alexanderís death, and had her murdered, poisoned.

So she behaved like a pig, but that was the nature of the times. And the mother too, Olympias had, as Iíd pointed out, Eurydice and her son horribly killed, per some accounts, so the women here are not fooling around. Theyíre serious women. They resemble each other, so thatís what gave me the license, I felt, to do the scene where potentially, perhaps, she had poisoned Hephaestion. Perhaps. Or at least Alexander thought so. The ambiguity of Madea, remember Madea? The stabbing, another one. And whoís Addicus, by the way, whoís Addicus? Remember the eye, the arrow in the eye when she screams. To me, that was Alexander, because thereís a line that Val says over the cave, when he passes, he says, at the end, about Oedipus, knowledge it came too late.

Do you see parallels between the imperialism of Alexander and whatís going on right now?

It wasnít done that way, you realize this film was started, script-wise, '89, '90 and then '95, '96 I wrote a script in '96 and then 2001-04 we did another batch of scripts. Itís a much bigger story that George, Bush has a ways to go to be analyzed, we have to step back 20 years. Alexanderís lasted 2500 years. Why? Heís remembered, because of his vision, because of his compassion, his generosity of spirit, because he was different. He was a man, he was a general, he was able to weep over his soldiers on the battlefield. Never before did that happen. So this is a special man whoís being remembered. Thereís a reason this film was made, itís bigger than us, bigger than me, bigger than Colin. All our time, they all worked hard, everybody bettered themselves, you know? It was that kind ofa spirit, so when you say political George Bush, I admit itís an amazing coincidence that George Bush has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, but you know, we donít know what it all means yet. Is there an East, West tilt? I donít know, itís an amazing story, but it ainít over yet. I havenít answered your full question yet, I had to go back to that first one.

Alexander had eight wounds when he died and he fought in the front ranks. Alexander was famous for moving on, he didnít get stuck, and he also pursued every fucking buddy who broke the treaty, he especially pursued them. He never would have let Osama Bin Laden get away. He would have tracked him into Pakistan. Fuck the border. In fact, the United States should have violated the border and gone into that area. Itís a wild land anyway, and fight and take casualties. If your going to fight and you go after somebody, you go after somebody and take the casualties, unless you lose, youíve got to keep going. To move the war to Iraq was a tactical mistake that Alexander never would have made, he never would have left Osama alive behind him. But aside from that, Bush in the end, who knows. He might be seen as an Alexander, maybe it will turn for him. Maybe theyíll be a sweeping, maybe theyíre right. Who are we to assume weíre right and heís wrong. Right now thereís been a historical shift. I say go with it. New slate, give him aÖall right, all right.

Where does your interest in the subject matter come from?

Well here is the youngest person in the world, 26, who ever ran the world. When did that last happen? Itís great that the young people were able to have that freshness and seize the world and live out this crazy journey. Itís one of the greatest adventure tales of all time, as equal to Sinbad or any of them. This is a myth. Alexander created a myth. For us to talk about these events in any detail over the next six hours, youíd have to walk out of here and say, "This guy outdid Heracles. He outdid Achilles. He outdid Jason, Dionysus. Heís a God." This guy did it. Prometheus is another character who comes into the movie. You know the eagle, remember the eagle pecking at the liver on the battlefield? Remember the fatherís telling him the story of Prometheus? Itís a great story, you know, heís a friend to man, Alexander says.

I positioned Alexander, and no historian does that, as a friend to man. These are differences in history. Some of (the characters) live longer in the movie than they did in real life, like Permian and Cletus, for dramatic reasons. But license, yes, but not in the structure, the arch is the same. But whether he attacked Roxanne, I doubt it. Maybe he did, maybe. Who assassinated him? Weíll never know, but thereís certainly enough conspiracies against him, certainly enough to prove that there were many afoot. And then of course the generals were all worried about being cast aside. There was a power play in front. So a lot of this is conjecture, but thatís what makes great drama. I think Iím more accurate than Shakespeare, thatís for sure.(Laughs)

What did Colin bring to the role? Why did you cast him?

And fuck, JFK was a deconstruction of the Warren Commission; it was not a political statement. If you look at it, itís got "suppose, if, could" all the way through. Itís based on the suppositional and Iíve really taken an ugly wrap in this country.


But thatís the problem too on these pictures: you have to get young people to play young people. You think Charlie Sheen, think Tom Cruise at that age, I mean they were young. Colin is fresh, you know heís 27 or 25 at the time I met him. He grew, he became stronger physically. He worked out, he got suntanned, he got in top shape and the muscles, the abs, the everything. He was a tough, gritty boy. When you say, excuse me, most directors are exaggerating when they say the actor did all of the stunts, I mean, frankly the insurance companies wonít allow that, but Iíd say Colin did as many as possible, and Iím talking about 95 percent of it. I mean, he rode dangerously. He was a real leader, and when he walked in, the company brightened, men followed him, the Irish gang around him loved him. In the role he was a King and at night he was the king of drinkers, but he was the king.

These guys had to be the prettiest army in history.

Well itís a movie, what do you want? But I always liked the Greek outfits. They were sexier than the Romans, you got to admit that. And they didnít wear sandals, they wore boots, so donít call it sword and sandals for, Christ's sake. Sword and boot, okay. Didnít you think the costumes were good? [turns to an assistant in the back of the room] Did you say something about Barneyís or something wants to make a window? A window with like male or female? What do you think, do we have the Alexander look? (Laughs) Would you help us on that? Alexander, a vogue shoot. Well, these girls. Not you.

What does DVD do for filmmakers today?

Itís like mail order internet sex. Itís like an easier way to access the person. Itís not good for us. Itís the end of movies the way we know them. Itís very hard to make money except through that process. So whatever the new technology is becomes the money maker, not necessarily rightly. In another words, if you remember, VHS was very popular, hugely popular and still could have been. But then they diminished the margin so much, that they went to DVD, it had to be the next best thing, to break through, to create a stir. So now theyíre going to marginalize that to nothing. The studios will be saying, "Well, we only make one cent perÖ" It will get ridiculous, of course, and then theyíll have to devise another technology.

But the fact is, that this digital, itís not going to hold. People are saying that analogís the only thing that will make it. And theyíre telling us to make YCMís or three stripes in analog as opposed to making them in digital because the quality of the physical material is disintegrating. So itís gonna be a big scam at the end of the day. In about five years, all your DVDs are gonna be worthless. Itís the end of movies, you know that. Weíre moving on. Itís like the sound revolution, itís over. How is [anyone] ever going to make a big movie again? Itís impossible. Everybody steals. The corporations are so huge. They control everything. You canít even get a fucking souvenir program at a goddamn theater because they canít figure out what to do with it.

Why is it the end of movies as we know it?

It cheapens them. If you walk into a room with five thousand DVDís, which is over inventory, how are you going to respect movies? How do you know the good ones. Thereís 15 categories for everything, thereís 15 subdivisions, thereís rip-offs. It just cheapens movies. Itís going to the LCD, the lowest common denominator. Itís making movies into supermarket shelf items, which is probably the best you can get at Wal-Mart. And then these whores in the movie business will be kissing Wal-Martís ass to be on these fucking shelves. Itís hopeless. The nature of capitalism is hopeless because itís so greedy. Frankly Iím not a communist at all, as you know Iím a capitalist, but as Lenin said, "Theyíll hang themselves with their own rope. Theyíll sell you the rope to hang them." Iím sorry, theyíll sell you the rope. Thereís no hope. Thereís only new technology.

Speaking of communists, how has your time with Fidel Castro helped you to tell the story of another leader?

Fidel, as you know, is an electric figure -- very charming, also very smart. Very penetrating analysis of the world situation, including globalization. He understands the world in a classic way. Give or take his problems with the economy and whether he should have reformed after the Soviet Union fell out. These are issues that Iím not expert enough to discuss. I do see the manís vision. And he has one. Heís the strongest human being Iíve met, probably like Nelson Mandela, who admires Castro greatly. And by the way, that doesnít make a man who admires Castro a bad guy. As they say in America, because if Nelson Mandela likes them, whatís wrong with Oliver Stone or Jack Nicholson liking them, for Christís sake. I donít get it. But, you know, they never mention that. The point made is that this is important, this goes to the Latin world, dammit. Like Alexander, Fidel has a vision and he sticks to it, and thatís why I make the ironic reference to Mr. Bush, because we donít know.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at [email protected].

Source: JoBlo.com



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