The biography of Alexander by Oxford University professor Robin Lane Fox was an original inspiration and source of information for Director Oliver Stone. As a 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 theaters 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 number one.
After the massive DVD sales of this film, Oliver Stone made one more version, "Alexander Revisited: The Final Cut". It uses 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 and Blu-ray copies in the U.S. home video market, and became one of the highest-selling catalogue items from Warner Brothers.
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).
The mutiny scene 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. His threat failed, and they turned back. Later, 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 it was clear that Alexander very well could replace them with more than competent Persian soldiers. After the ringleaders were executed (shown in compressed combination in the film) the men begged forgiveness. General Craterus did not publicly speak out at either mutiny.
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 faces a mutiny at the Beas river, Craterus' speech mentions that many men he knew had died, some died of disease, others were butchered in Scythia by the banks of the Oxus. He's referencing Alexander's campaign against Spitamenes, a guerrilla leader whose military tactics led to a massacre of 2,000 mercenaries serving Alexander. The movie doesn't show those battles, but Spitamenes' severed head is shown, and Ptolemy mentions him as the last rebel leader, whose head was presented to Alexander by his former allies. In real life, Spitamenes was killed by his own allies, who sent his head as a peace offering.
Oliver Stone claimed that the horses were more dangerous while filming the battle scenes than the elephants. The horses were often reckless with their riders. The elephants were much more careful not to harm the actors.
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.
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.
A personal message from Oliver Stone was inserted with the two-disc 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 (three and a half 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.
On July 10, 2014, elephant actor Phlai Khlao was poisoned by ivory poachers near Ayutthaya, Thailand. He was 50, His mahout, 32-year-old Naret Wangkalung, was arrested by Thai police for conspiracy to murder.
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.
Despite the film's negative reception, both critically and financially, it's relatively historically accurate. Most all of the characters and events depicted in the film having some basis in the real history, and some lines of dialogue are verbatim from ancient sources.
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 make-up covering one eye.
In December 2003, a group of homeless people in Stockholm, Sweden, started queuing for tickets to this movie, 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' 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.
In the U.S., the film is widely considered as a box-office "flop". However, the film also performed surprisingly well in the home video market in the U.S, so Warner Brothers asked Oliver Stone to make a fourth version of the film. (Later, the fourth version became "Alexander: The Ultimate Cut".)
This is Oliver Stone's second collaboration with Val Kilmer and Sir Anthony Hopkins. Coincidentally, they had both played historical characters during their first collaboration with Stone; Kilmer played Jim Morrison, and Hopkins played Richard Nixon.
During the Indian battle, Nearchus screams when another soldier, presumably his friend, is crushed to death by an elephant. He identifies him by the name "Coenus". Historically, Coenus was one of the most able infantry commanders of Alexander's army. While he did meet his end in India, his death was due to disease, rather than battle.
Colin Farrell and Rosario Dawson have both been in adaptations of the Marvel comics character Daredevil. Colin Farrell played his archenemy Bullseye in Daredevil (2003), and Rosario Dawson plays his friend and ally Claire Temple in the the Netflix series Daredevil (2015).
When Cleitus and Alexander drunkenly quarrel in India, Cleitus remarks "Let me rot in Macedonian rags, rather than shine in Eastern pomp!" This line paraphrases a similar line which Cleitus speaks in the sixteenth century British play "The Tragedy of Alexander the Great".
Three cast members involved have connections to adaptations of the DC Comics character Batman: Val Kilmer played Bruce Wayne (Batman) in Batman Forever (1995), Jared Leto played Batman's archenemy The Joker in Suicide Squad (2016), and Rosario Dawson provided the voice of Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) in Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis (2015) and Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016), both of which featured Batman, and provided the voice of his ally Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) in The Lego Batman Movie (2017).
Three cast members have been in Marvel Comics adaptations: Colin Farrell played Bullseye in Daredevil (2003), Sir Anthony Hopkins played Odin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Rosario Dawson has appeared in Daredevil (2015), Jessica Jones (2015), Luke Cage (2016), Iron Fist (2017), and The Defenders (2017).
There was considerable concern when it was announced that Colin Farrell would be playing Alexander the Great. It was felt that an Irishman was a poor choice for such an important European character . Oliver Stone responded by casting at least another 20 Irish actors in supporting roles so that Farrell's accent would blend in with the onscreen action.
In both the major battles of the movie (The battle of Gaugamela against the Persian Empire and the battle in the Forest against the Indians and their Elephants) Alexander attempts to assassinate the leader of the opposing army by riding up to him on his horse and throw something at them (Darius III he attempts to kill with a spear while the nameless Indian elephant rider he throws his sword at). Both times, he misses and something bad happens (Darius escapes from the Battle of Gaugamela and in the battle in India's forests, Alexander's beloved steed is killed).
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.
The real Alexander the Great died in June, 323 B.C. in Babylon, Iraq at just thirty-two-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.
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 November 5, 2004 in the U.S., but was moved to November 24, 2004. Studio executives stated that the move was to put it in a more competitive position for Oscar consideration, but unfortunately never received one, nor Golden Globe nomination, nor BAFTA nomination .