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Monday, November 22, 2004

"Alexander the Great"- breaking ground with a gay movie hero

I wonder if Singapore's ridiculously Victorian censors would deal with this.  Perhaps it's time they accept bisexuality and homosexuality have always existed in human history.
 
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20 Nov 04
The New York Times
 
"Alexander"- breaking ground with a gay movie hero

Los Angeles - As the culture wars rage anew between social
conservatives and their liberal counterparts, Hollywood is preparing to
break fresh ground by releasing a high-budget epic film in which the
lead character - a classic, and classical, action hero - is
passionately in love with a man.
 
In Oliver Stone's three-hour drama, "Alexander," Colin Farrell, as the
fourth-century Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, has a number
of tender love scenes with his best friend, Hephaistion, played by a
long-haired Jared Leto. In the film, which cost about $155 million to
produce, Alexander is also married to Roxane, played by Rosario Dawson,
but the marriage takes a back seat to his passion for his boyhood
friend.
 
In decades past, Hollywood hinted at classical homosexuality in major
films like 1960's "Spartacus." And it has dealt with the contemporary
subject comically in films like "The Birdcage," the 1996 adaptation of
the French film "La Cage aux Folles." But the film industry has never
risked quite so much on a blockbuster film that depicts a leading man
as gay or bisexual.
 
In breaking with that historical reticence, "Alexander," set for
release by Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Brothers studio next Wednesday,
may redefine what is acceptable to mass audiences when it comes to
heroic portrayals on the silver screen.
 
Warner, which financed "Alexander" with the German company Intermedia,
has taken pains to de-emphasize the film's gay aspect in its
advertising campaign - the trailer declares Alexander's "passion" while
showing a love scene between Mr. Farrell and Ms. Dawson.
 
Mr. Stone, who had final say over the film, scaled back some of the gay
love scenes after Warner objected to them and to some of the movie's
violence. But the director, who critics say took liberties with
historical fact in films like "J.F.K." and "Nixon," said that his
choice with "Alexander" was to hew to the record.
 
"I don't want to corrupt history," Mr. Stone said in an interview. "I
don't want to say, 'How do I make this work for a modern audience?'
Alexander to me is a perfect blend of male-female, masculine-feminine,
yin-yang. He could communicate with both sides of his nature. When you
get to modern-day focus groups, to who'll get offended in Hawaii or
Maine, you can't get out of it."
 
Still, Mr. Stone said he was concerned that there might be a backlash.
"I'd be naﶥ not to be concerned, in America, anyway," he said. "I
didn't know there would be a parallel situation going on."
The parallel situation Mr. Stone refers to is that in the wake of the
presidential election and the passage of prohibitions on gay marriage
in a number of states, homosexuality has resurfaced as a focus of
debate and controversy among cultural critics.
 
Some are already taking aim at Mr. Stone's movie. "There will be people
who see Alexander the Great's bisexuality as applauding that lifestyle,
and unfortunately it will lead some young boys, young men down a path
that I think they'll regret someday," said Bob Waliszewski, a film
critic with Focus on the Family, a Christian group.
 
In Greece, Reuters reported that a group of Greek lawyers threatened to
sue the studio and Mr. Stone for saying that Alexander was bisexual.
Warner and Intermedia said they had not been contacted by the group.
Historians of antiquity say the picture's depiction of Alexander is
more or less accurate, noting that the conqueror was inconsolable when
Hephaistion died, though he also had various wives and mistresses. They
also note that Alexander's bisexuality was common for his time.
 
"In the broadest sense Hephaistion is the love of his life, and not
just based on sex," said Robin Lane Fox, an Oxford historian who was a
consultant on the film. "They'd been together since boyhood, 25 years.
That's what Oliver, with the Hephaistion scenes, was trying to
present."
 
But historians of cinema said the depiction of a gay or bisexual
leading man in a major Hollywood film had little precedent. When Warner
earlier this year released another classical epic, "Troy" - based on
"The Iliad" - it changed what Greek scholars regard as a love
relationship between Achilles and Patroclus into a family tie. In that
film, Patroclus is Achilles' cousin, and Achilles, played by a
glisteningly buff Brad Pitt, is decidedly heterosexual.
 
As for "Alexander," Warner Brothers' president, Alan F. Horn,
explained: "Oliver Stone is a final-cut director. He was very clear at
the point at which I green-lit the movie that Alexander was a bisexual
character. He felt very strongly about being historically accurate."
At least some experts say they believe the resulting film will be
credited with breaking a taboo that was due to fall. "I think it will
be seen as a landmark," said Thomas Waugh, film professor at Concordia
University in Montreal and author of "The Fruit Machine: Twenty Years
of Writings on Queer Cinema."
 

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