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Alexander the Great Wimp gets lost in a Hollywood conspiracy

By John Harlow
Arts Correspondent
The Times of London

ALEXANDER the Great, conqueror of the ancient world and schoolboy idol, is about to be recast by Hollywood as a brutal war criminal who was murdered by his own generals in Babylon when they feared he had lost his taste for blood.

Two films, one by Oliver Stone, director of such convoluted conspiracy epics as JFK and Nixon, and the other by Christopher McQuarrie, Oscar-winning writer of the 1995 hit The Usual Suspects, have rejected all the evidence that Alexander died from typhoid at the age of 33.

Stone's forthcoming film compares the western world's first emperor with John F Kennedy, saying he, too, was a victim of a court plot. The director has been talking to Tom Cruise about playing the young warrior.

Until recently, many historians justified massacres by Alexander as he marched 20,000 miles through Persia, northern India and Egypt as "militarily necessary". More recent studies have indicated that he was brutal even for his times, and in contrast to the 1956 film starring Richard Burton. Stone is prepared to show that.

Stone, writing in today's Sunday Times, says that Alexander was surrounded by conspiracies. "His father had been assassinated under mysterious circumstances. Alexander, not far from his side that day, was immediately suspect. What did he know?

"In Alexander's own untimely death, we have again strong evidence of a conspiracy of family clans. Did he die of fever or from poisoned wine? I choose to believe the latter."

McQuarrie's £30m biopic, which is set to star Matthew McConaughey, known for his roles in Steven Spielberg's Amistad and Jodie Foster's Contact, goes even further. He alleges that, by the end of Alexander's extraordinary life in 323BC, the bisexual emperor was so damaged by drink that he was poisoned to protect his image and legacy.

The script suggests the generals felt he had lost his nerve as well as his reason by the time he had conquered Persia and northern India and was wallowing in depression by the time he died in Babylon.

Despite his early heroism, when Alexander led from the front in a series of brilliant victories, McQuarrie suggests that by the end he was turning into a "peace-loving wimp" and whose generals felt he was stealing their glory.

Michael Wood, the Oxford scholar who presented In the Footsteps of Alexander on BBC2 last summer, said that as there were no contemporary reports of the Alexandrian conquests the directors could concoct what they liked.

"Alexander probably died of natural causes, but I would have Aristotle, the great philosopher who taught the boy Alexander, as killing him off in despair that he has failed the highest ideals set in his childhood. However implausible, it is a perfect Hollywood plot," said Wood.


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