The biography of Alexander by Oxford University professor Robin Lane Fox was an original inspiration and source of information for director Oliver Stone. As an historical advisor, Professor Fox didn't get an on screen credit; his price for giving his advice was to be allowed to take a place at the head of what is one of the largest cavalry charges ever filmed. Professor Fox was used to riding around the English countryside, but gladly dressed up as a Macedonean cavalry officer to live his dream of charging for Alexander.
The film almost never made it to the theatres in Greece. A group of Greek lawyers decided to try to ban the film on the grounds that Oliver Stone was denigrating the figure of Alexander the Great by making reference to his bisexuality. The film was ultimately given a theatrical release in Greece and premiered at #1.
July 10th, 2014: The elephant actor Phlai Khlao in this film died at age 50 from poisoning by ivory poachers near Ayutthaya, Thailand. His mahout Naret Wangkalung, 32, has been arrested by Thai police under suspicion of conspiracy to murder.
Near the end of the film, Ptolemy mentions that one of the influential generals in the east of Asia after Alexander's death was Seleucus. While he is barely mentioned in the film, Seleucus and his dynasty would go on to take almost all of Alexander's Asian territories.
Oliver Stone, after the massive DVD sales of this film, made one other version - "Alexander Revisited; The Final Cut". Revisited is completely revised, using all footage shot (three and a half hours) and is formatted like a traditional epic, with intermission. This version has sold close to one million DVD/Blu-ray copies in the home video market in the USA, and became one of the highest-selling catalog items from Warner Bros.
During the Indian battle, Alexander sends messengers to his cavalry commanders. The first messenger he speaks to is named Meleager. After Alexander's death, an infantry commander named Meleager attempted to rouse the army into disowning Alexander's half-Asian heir in favour of his slow-witted half-brother by Philip. This led to the wars between Alexander's generals that lasted for years afterward.
Alexander's Pyrrhic victory at the Hydaspes is actually a combination of two actual battles. The real Hydaspes battle was a much easier victory for the real Alexander, and Porus became one of his allies. The second battle was the siege of Multan, where Alexander was wounded while leading his men as they assaulted the fortress. Both battles were victories.
When Alexander is facing a mutiny by his men at the Beas river, Craterus' speech mentions that many men he knew had died. He mentions that some died of disease, others were butchered in Scythia by the banks of the Oxus. This comment references Alexander's campaign against Spitamenes, a guerrilla leader whose military tactics led to a massacre of two thousand mercenaries serving Alexander. While these battles are not seen, Spitamenes' severed head is shown and is referenced to by Ptolemy as the last rebel leader, whose head was presented to Alexander by his former allies (Spitamenes was indeed killed by his own allies and his head was sent as a peace offering).
The scene where the men mutiny is a combination of two separate mutinies. In India, the men refused to march on, and Alexander claimed he would go on with his Asian troops. This threat failed, and they turned back. The second mutiny was when it became clear that Alexander wanted to send his veterans home and replace them with Asians. The men claimed that they would all leave with the veterans, but this time it was clear that Alexander very well could replace them with more than competent Persian soldiers. After the execution of the ringleaders (shown in the compressed combination in the film) the men begged forgiveness. One inaccuracy between history and film is that the general Craterus did not publicly speak out at either mutiny.
Almost all of the Greek youths in the gymnasium were actually wrestling with one another for most of the scenes. Only when the camera was nearby were they performing choreographed moves. However the match between Alexander and Hephaistion was choreographed from start to finish.
Before he makes his suicidal charge during the Indian battle, Alexander remarks, "Isn't it a lovely thing to live with great courage, and to die leaving an everlasting fame!" This paraphrases part of the opening lines to Alexander the Great (1956).
A personal message from Oliver Stone was inserted with the 2-DVD set of Alexander Revisited in which he explains his reasons for this third version of the movie. According to him "I believe this version now (3.5 hours) is my clearest interpretation of Alexander's incredible life. For those who didn't appreciate the original, rest assured this is my last pass, as there is no more footage to be found." Although the latter may be true, this doesn't mean, nor does it seem to be implied, all footage was used in Alexander Revisited. There are extended scenes (Pella with the boy Alexander, some more sentences in the Indian revolt speech) to be found on the theatrical version, some fragments of scenes only a few seconds long throughout the original movie as well as a complete scene (old Ptolemy in Alexandria, indoors) not included in the third version.
The fact that Olympias is shown to have an affinity for snakes could be a reference that some ancient authors believed that the god Zeus (or Ammon) appeared to her in the form of a serpent before they conceived Alexander.
Val Kilmer noted that the most challenging parts of the production were actually gaining the weight needed for the role, and the loss of depth perception secondary to mono-vision from the scar tissue makeup covering one eye.
Oliver Stone claimed that the horses were actually more dangerous during filming the battle scenes than the elephants, as the elephants were much more careful in not harming the actors while the horses were liable to be more reckless with their riders.
In December 2003, a group of homeless people in Stockholm, Sweden, started queuing for tickets to "Alexander", scheduled to premiere in November 2004. They intended to live in tents outside a movie theater in the city center for a year. This silent protest, intended to draw attention to the homeless in the Swedish capitol, was inspired by a local politician who said it is both legal and fully acceptable for fans to camp out for weeks in central Stockholm to get tickets to a movie premiere. At the time, the movie in question was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).
Historical consultant Robin Lane Fox and the costume design team originally planned for Angelina Jolie to be clothed exactly as a woman of Olympias's time and position would have appeared. This included a long dress and shawl that would have fully covered her entire body including her hair. Jolie, however, objected strongly to this and insisted her character be far less clothed to emphasize her sexual power.
Oliver Stone's second collaboration with both Val Kilmer and Anthony Hopkins. Coincidentally, they had both played historical characters during their first collaboration with Stone (Kilmer played Jim Morrison and Hopkins played Richard Nixon).
Ptolemy's final words concerning the plot behind Alexander's death is based on a conspiracy that many, including Robin Lane Fox, state could be one of the best explanations to Alexander's death. However, as incorrectly put, Ptolemy was innocent of the plot, as were five others.
The movie was originally scheduled for release on 5 November 2004 in the USA, but was moved to 24 November 2004. Studio executives stated that the move was to put it in a more competitive position for Oscar consideration.
In the USA, the film is widely considered as a box-office "flop". However, the film also performed surprisingly well in the home video market in the USA, so Warner Bros asked Oliver Stone to make a fourth version of the film. (Later, the fourth version became "Alexander: The Ultimate Cut".)
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the theatrical version of the film, Cleitus insults Alexander repeatedly, until Alexander, in a drunken rage, stabs him through the middle with a spear. In the Revisited version, however, Alexander is restrained for a time and Cleitus is dragged out of the room before returning of his own free will and taunting Alexander until his death. This is a reference to the fact that many historians' facts differ on whether Cleitus left the room or not before being killed.
On his deathbed, Alexander is asked who will inherit the empire. He whispers something incoherent, and his men are divided over whether he said "To the best" or "Craterus." This is due to the fact that the Greek words for "To the best" and "Craterus" are virtually identical.
The real Alexander the Great died in June, 323 B.C. in Babylon, Iraq at just 32 years old after a long night of heavy drinking. No one knows his cause of death. Typhoid Fever, Malaria, poisoning and many other maladies have been theorized.