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Oliver Stone Says New Cut Of 'Alexander' Will Be "Best Version Yet," Criticizes 'Zero Dark Thirty' & 'The Hurt Locker' & Talks 'Pinkville'

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by Diana Drumm
July 14, 2013 10:13 AM
37 Comments
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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."    

If you want to check out the "Master Class with Oliver Stone" in its entirety, here's the YouTube video, or if you want to read more highlights from the event, here's a fellow Indiewire article

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37 Comments

  • Nate | June 1, 2014 4:08 PMReply

    When will he realized that he has ruined Alexander for everyone? Another cut won't cut it loser, your time is up. Time to move on.

  • Posca | April 5, 2014 5:41 AMReply

    Well, it would have been nice were there a lot more effort placed into... Many areas. The costumes, soundtrack, they were decent though. It also is displeasing that battles were mashed together, and leaving out other important details. It's a piss off.

    Vangelis needs a better contract.

  • CatCat | March 20, 2014 2:08 PMReply

    It's not the cut that bothered me, it's Colin Farrell, he's a terrible Alexander. Alexander is a legend, in the minds of many he is powerful, beautiful, magnificent; Colin Farrell is none of those things. Remake the film with a decent lead and remember it's set in the ancient worlds of Greece, Macedonia and Persia, not Ireland.

  • Max | September 30, 2013 2:56 AMReply

    To be fairly honest, I don't see why there is so much hatred around this movie. Although I remember not liking that much the initial 2004 release , I re-watched the 2007 version with great enjoyment. It has a lot of what makes a successful epic and despite hateful comments it is historically much more accurate than most think . Although to be fair , even historians do a lot of guessing work when it comes to the life of Alexander. A lot of hatred seems to be focusing on the choices of accents, this is only an attempt from the director to highlight the different origins of the protagonists. Besides Greek, Macedonian had their own dialect and until the rise of Philip they were only a far away uncivilized satellite country within the Greek sphere of influence.

  • Marty | July 16, 2013 9:41 AMReply

    Sorry! Thought my comment didn't go through, doh!

  • Marty | July 16, 2013 9:39 AMReply

    Sad to read, just affirms how Stone has lost it. Hasn't made a good film since The Doors or JFK. Maybe Natural born killers, maybe 1/2 of the u-turn, but he jumped the shark years ago. And to try to criticize Bigelow's war films is a shot in the foot -- why don't you make a war film, then? make Pinkville and see if you can do better. What a shame.

  • Marty | July 16, 2013 9:37 AMReply

    Sad to read, just affirms how Stone has lost it. Hasn't made a good film since JFK. Maybe Natural born killers, maybe 1/2 of the u-turn, but he jumped the shark years ago. And to try to criticize Bigelow's war films is a shot in the foot -- why don't you make a war film, then? make Pinkville and see if you can do better. What a shame.

  • Marty | July 16, 2013 9:36 AMReply

    Sad to read, just affirms how Stone has lost it. Hasn't made a good film since JFK. Maybe Natural born killers, maybe 1/2 of the u-turn, but he jumped the shark years ago. And to try to criticize Bigelow's war films is a shot in the foot -- why don't you make a war film, then? make Pinkville and see if you can do better. What a shame.

  • Marty | July 16, 2013 9:36 AMReply

    Sad to read, just affirms how Stone has lost it. Hasn't made a good film since JFK. Maybe Natural born killers, maybe 1/2 of the u-turn, but he jumped the shark years ago. And to try to criticize Bigelow's war films is a shot in the foot -- why don't you make a war film, then? make Pinkville and see if you can do better. What a shame.

  • Marty | July 16, 2013 9:35 AMReply

    Sad to read, just affirms how Stone has lost it. Hasn't made a good film since JFK. Maybe Natural born killers, maybe 1/2 of the u-turn, but he jumped the shark years ago. And to try to criticize Bigelow's war films is a shot in the foot -- why don't you make a war film, then? make Pinkville and see if you can do better. What a shame.

  • spassky | July 15, 2013 1:13 PMReply

    More like masterclass in being a hypocritical asshole with no realistic sense of moral worth.

  • Bruce | July 15, 2013 9:40 AMReply

    "Best Version Yet". What does that mean, it comes with it's own diaper?!

  • Charles | July 15, 2013 5:10 AMReply

    Am I the only who sees that Zero Dark Thirty does NOT have a happy ending? Chastain dedicated her life to hunting down Bin Laden and in the end she's left with nothing. I think it's more subversive than Oliver Stone realizes. He clearly prefers a film that hits you over the head with a sledgehammer. That's the way he directs. The only movies I like of his are JFK and Platoon but they're not exactly subtle. And the "truth" he depicts in JFK is pretty laughable, but it makes for an enjoyable film.

  • White Noise | July 15, 2013 11:01 AM

    "He clearly prefers a film that hits you over the head with a sledgehammer." - You mean like opening a film with the emotionally manipulative sounds of people begging for their lives as they die in a terrorist attack? Or a movie that features this jingoistic rant: "People are dying. We are still no closer to defeating our enemy. They attacked us on land in 98, by sea in 2000 and from the air in 2001. They murdered 3000 of our citizens in cold blood. And they have slaughtered our forward deployed, and what the fuck have we done about it, huh? *slams table* WHAT HAVE WE DONE?" Or a movie that devotes its final 20 minutes to a masterbatorial sequence celebrating militarism and "American heroism"? Yeah, those sledgehammers...

  • Cunning Linguist | July 15, 2013 4:05 AMReply

    Its obvious that Oliver Stone doesn't care about history. JFK and Alexander are about as historically inaccurate as a film can get and still retain the "based on a true story" tag.

    He also can't resist hating the same country that allowed him to make millions. Every time this overblown wind bag opens his mouth its the same diatribe. Last time I checked no one was disarming IEDs or eliminating douchebag bad guys in Texas. This guy is a moron...the 19th recut of Alexander proves this. Platoon ain't walking through that door Ollie...does us all a favor a go away. Just go.

  • Northern Star | July 14, 2013 8:44 PMReply

    So Ollie Stone (what a character!) passes moral judgement on another director's films when this is the guy who made TWO glowing documentaries about two of Latin America's worst despots? Stone's 'JFK' was a flat-out technical masterpiece but he hasn't reached anywhere near those giddy heights since... although 'Nixon' is still an underrated gem...

  • Kelly | July 15, 2013 12:42 AM

    Two individuals who successfully prevented their countries from being exploited by imperialist Wall Street bankers = "Latin America's worst despots." Only in America.

  • Lauren | July 14, 2013 5:02 PMReply

    Contradictory much? "With The Hurt Locker, Bigelow unflinchingly stuck her finger in the tragic heart of a national wound — our inability to face ourselves."
    —Oliver Stone on Kathryn Bigelow, TIME 100 2010

  • dryer | July 14, 2013 4:40 PMReply

    Stone unfortunately sold his soul for Alexander along with any remaining Hollywood credibility hasnt been able to shake it since its failure. World Trade Center (2003?) was his last film of any remembrance, W was a neutered and toothless display of a failed director working on an obvious low budget film. It's actually a sad ending of a promising twisted artist and filmography when you've become a studio director for hire.

  • Ron Merk | July 14, 2013 4:40 PMReply

    Stone's fear or concern that audiences could not accept the idea that Alexander's bed included women and men, and that his life long affair with Hephaestion was most likely the greatest love of his life, is part of what makes this film untrue in its heart. Then there is the Boris and Natasha accent of Angelina Jolie, which is so disconcerting it killed that character for me, and if you list carefully to some of the actors, you can hear on of Alexander's captains speaking with a strong Scottish accent. These are all directorial choices or failures. If Stone REALLY wants to re-cut this film, it needs to reflect the truth of Alexander's life, and the world he lived in, and not some notion of Stone's. If Stone ever decided to do the true life version of Alexander, and I think he has the footage to do this in those out-takes, now THAT would be a film I've go back to see, and even buy the Blu Ray.

  • Céili | July 14, 2013 6:29 PM

    I agree. Farrell isn't lead material (tho great in support) and someone should tell Jolie that glaring and pouting, even at the same time, isn't best dramatic practice. The problems with that film are pretty endless really and point to a catastrophic failure of taste and execution. It's a dog, Oliver, not a unicorn- stop trying to duct-tape horns on its head.

    I'd also add that if a woman had made that thing, it would have ended her career.

  • Steven Flores | July 14, 2013 4:31 PMReply

    Oliver Stone needs to retire. He hasn't made a worthwhile film since "Natural Born Killers". The guy just doesn't have it anymore and he's made one bad movie after another since "Alexander". He should take his political ideas and shove it up his ass.

  • serpico | July 14, 2013 12:42 PMReply

    Stone needs to a get a grip. The reason why Bigelow and Boal's movies were successful with the critics is because they weren't so bias to begin with. It was something fresh. Of course Stone won't like the work. The man can't help but make a politically radical statement in nearly all his movies.

  • Jim B. | July 14, 2013 6:48 PM

    "they weren't so bias to begin with." Ha... oh, you're being serious...

  • Washington | July 14, 2013 2:35 PM

    God forbid a movie have an opinion

  • M | July 14, 2013 12:21 PMReply

    Stone's 'Alexander' was horrendous beyond all reasonable doubt. But his views on political subservience in cinema are spot-on.

  • joe | July 14, 2013 12:18 PMReply

    stone is the most overrated director of all time

  • Cribbster | July 14, 2013 6:28 PM

    Nah, Stone's got his champion's belt for "Platoon" and "Born on the Fourth of July." (I still haven't seen "JFK.") Those movies are his belt. He can make as much mediocre shit as he wants, they don't affect the fact that he's got his belt. Respect.

  • Peter D | July 14, 2013 12:02 PMReply

    He's completely right on Bigelow's movies. Anyone want to tell me any other themes than "these people are at at what they do" and "war is a drug". Nooooo meantion of intervention and it's consequences in her movies. It would be one thing if people praised Bigelow's movie and other movies questioning intervention. But they don't. And when challenged by anyone who cares about those consequences they say "oh no but it's just about the soldiers craft and passion and adrenaline." BS.

  • MDL | July 15, 2013 3:30 PM

    Why must Bigelow be required to get on your soapbox about these wars? Watch the movies for what they are, not what you want them to be about. For soldiers on the ground the whole left / right political argument for or against the wars is b.s. Soliders don't have that luxury. They have a job to do. That said, her last two war movies are not rah rah American military, happy ending movies.

  • Washington | July 14, 2013 2:39 PM

    "Well it's whatever you want it to be" seems to be the thought behind most creative works nowadays.

  • 34234 | July 14, 2013 11:52 AMReply

    I think Alexander is great and I'm very excited for a new cut. Hope it comes out within the next year

  • Curtis | July 14, 2013 11:07 AMReply

    Stone made Platoon, NBK & JFK. If these films don't qualify the man as a critic of today's dreck, then I don't know what does, 'Kindred Spirit."

  • Markunator | July 14, 2013 1:27 PM

    "Zero Dark Thirty" isn't dreck, and Kindred Spirit's point was that Oliver Stone hasn't made any good movies in a while, so instead he's criticizing someone who has.

  • kindred spirit | July 14, 2013 10:45 AMReply

    Stone should focus on making decent films before criticizing genuinely great films, something he hasn't come close to making in years.

  • Washington | July 14, 2013 2:40 PM

    "her very different, distanced, non-partisan, brilliant filmmaking"

    Give me a fucking break. Have some dignity man.

  • sakul | July 14, 2013 12:19 PM

    ^^THIS. He sounds frustrated that Kathryn Bigelow (with her very different, distanced, non-partisan, brilliant filmmaking) is getting the high acclaim and success that he hasn't had in years.

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