If you hadn’t already
gathered, Oliver Stone is a stubborn
man. This can be a good and not-so-good thing. Confirming what we
reported on over a year ago, Oliver Stone discussed his fourth
to-be-released cut of “Alexander” at
this year’s Karlovy Vary International
Film Festival (along with some of his other work and advice on writing and
editing). As you might remember, the original
movie was a critical and commercial flop, with possibly the most positive review coming from Richard Roeper, who wrote, “It’s just a wild, glorious, wacky mess
that I found really entertaining.” But that opinion was one of the few. In our retrospective of the filmmaker we described it as “a pronounced and overwrought failure on any number of
levels, rendered watchable only for its camp qualities.” However, in the years since 2004, Stone has been doing all he can to deliver a better version of the movie.
In his Master Class at KVIFF, Oliver Stone discussed this latest attempt at editing the “Alexander” behemoth and why he hasn’t been able to let go. He blamed the original 2004 cut on being restricted creatively and bound by a delivery date. “You have to understand that was made in 2004, it was a contractual agreement to make a 3-hour or less film. I couldn’t do it. I cheated myself. I also rushed the post-production because we were trying to make a market date. It was a big mistake,” he said of $155 million dollar movie that paired up blonde Colin Farrell as the land-amassing king and Angelina Jolie as his mother.
After an obligatory “Director’s Cut” DVD in 2005, Stone went back to the splicer yet again to create “Alexander Revisited: The Final Unrated Cut” in 2007 (or what he described as “a Cecil B. DeMille three-hour-45-minute thing,” oh the grandiosity). Stone explained that this longer cut cemented the structure that he had wanted all along, having the film be a story of three people (Alexander and his parents acting as parallels) rather than Alexander on his own. “…the DVD [was] very successful; sold a million copies unadvertised,” Stone said about that iteration and apparently, money has spoken with the powers that be asking Stone to revisit “Alexander” yet again, which he said he “did gladly.”
About this latest (and hopefully last) labor of “Alexander,” Stone elaborated, “So I took my time, I cut 20 minutes and I think it’s the best version yet. It tells the story that I wanted to tell,” (which translates to a proposed running time of roughly three hours and 14 minutes).
Another highlight in this nearly hour-long event, Stone took the time to share his concerns about recent films addressing the role of the United States in the Middle East, particularly Kathryn Bigelow‘s “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Hurt Locker.” “The Iraq War was not successful at the box office. It did get some awards with ‘Hurt Locker,’ but people in the country didn’t respond,” he opined. Stone criticized both films for their focus on American heroism, but not on the consequences of their intervention. “There’s no moral judgment in that movie [‘The Hurt Locker’]. It bothered me because these Americans just do their job. They could be anywhere. They could be in Texas, they could be in Afghanistan, they could be in Iraq. They’re good at what they do… So, is that the point? You could say with ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ that they did their job. You know? Come on, what kind of job are you doing? What are you doing with your life? You’re invading other countries. You’re hurting other people. You feel good about that?” he questioned.
In regards to future projects, Stone revealed a bit more about the long-gestating “Pinkville“ that we dubbed one of our 10 Dead Projects We’d Like To See Resurrected and was rumored to be re-emerging with Shia LaBeouf attached back in 2010. Still stuck in the writing phase, Stone shared, “We’re developing ‘Pinkville’…Seven drafts were written, not by me, but by a young, very hungry, investigator into history.” In regards to plot and tone, “Pinkville” is about the My Lai Massacre (when the U.S. Army murdered between 347 to 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians) and its investigation, with Stone describing it as “a scary fucking movie. It happens to be true, but that’s beside the point.” Stone’s enlisted a young screenwriter who he praises as having “a sense of history and authenticity. At the same time, he has a great sense of tension and terror” to assist in pulling this together.
On why “Pinkville” wasn’t made as planned six years ago (coincidentally, the same year as Stone’s third “Alexander” cut), Stone blamed financing and Bruce Willis: “It didn’t work. It fell apart with a few weeks to go. Bruce Willis, excuse me, was not very helpful to the process and the financing fell out.”