In the 2000s, the critical, financial and Oscar-winning success of by Ridley Scott actor of ancient Rome”Gladiator” led the studios to pursue the same heights. A series of big-budget period action films were lit in its wake, such as by Wolfgang Peterson greek epic »Troy” (loosely based on the Iliad), by Scott”kingdom of paradise,” and by Olivier Stone ambitious but ultimately messy”alexander.” Stone wasn’t the only established filmmaker to attempt to tell the story of former Macedonian general and king, Alexander the Great.
In 2002, the Australian director Baz Luhrmann (“Elvis”) in team with the producer Laurentiis Dino shoot his own film Alexander the Great in competition in Morocco which would have reunited him with his “Romeo + Juliet” star Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role. Both Universal images and 20th century fox were to support the project that Luhrmann had been nurturing for ten years. Ultimately, it collapsed before its scheduled production.
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Luhrmann recently spoke on the Happy Sad Confused podcast (listen below) to promote “Elvis.” During the long conversation, his abandoned epic “Alexander” was brought up, and the filmmaker explained why he abandoned the project after years and years of research.
“[Dino de Laurentiis] built a film studio in Morocco for films, but what happens is I’m already on the road, but honestly, it’s become one of those things where…[Oliver Stone] wanted to do [his version], and I’m not a runner,” he explained, of the rush to be the first movie in theaters to tell that story at the time. I can’t work like this. More [My wife and I] wanted to have children; it became a moment where I was like, ‘I have to draw a line here.’
The director revealed he wanted another Aussie Mel Gibson (“Brave heart”) to play Alexander’s father, confirming a nearly two-decade-old casting report.
“I mean, it was great casting…at one point; Mel Gibson was going to be the father, the king, the mad king,” he continued.
Of course, this all happened years before Gibson’s drunken arrest and domestic abuse allegations. Hiring Gibson, at the time, would have been a little odd though, given Variety reported that the Oscar-winning director was developing his own Alexander The Great project in HBO: a 10-episode miniseries budgeted at $120 million that was compared to “Band of brothers” scope.
“I had to draw a line, and it took a very long time to get over it. Funny enough, we were trying to get pregnant, and I was very, very pregnant from this story. And note, while Luhrmann doesn’t Didn’t say in this podcast, an old excerpt from Dino de Laurentis’ book “Dino: The Life and Films of Dino De Laurentiis”, says that Martin Scorsese was trying to develop an Alexander the Great movie with DiCaprio, also at some time.
The roles of Alexander’s parents in Stone’s version were performed by Val Kilmer (“Heat”) and Oscar winner Angelina Jolie (“girl interrupted”). Both were arguably too young for these roles given that a 28-year-old Colin Farrel played the main role. Jolie being the same age as her “son”, it was certainly more difficult to be convincing at the time.
The director’s most recent film, “Elvis”, is now in theaters. You can listen to the full podcast conversation below.