Over the course of a 30-year career pushing Hollywood’s controversy buttons, director Oliver Stone has constructed one of the most fascinating public personas in modern pop culture.
Somewhere between Hunter S. Thompson, Ernest Hemingway and the raving homeless guy on the corner, Stone has a larger-than-life personality that always seems to involve foreign locales, questionable recreational activity and a revolving door of machines he’s determined to rage against.
While we can’t be sure, we’d like to think that when we tracked him down recently “somewhere in Asia” he was speaking to us from some godforsaken locale that will inspire his next script. Regardless, we were eager to discuss such topics as his gutsy decision to revisit 2004’s “Alexander” for a startling third time, Hollywood’s fear of castrated male characters and the possibility that 9/11 was an inside job.
MTV: How are you?
Oliver Stone: I’m good. It’s early morning here, but I’m waking up.
MTV: Where exactly are you?
Stone: I’m somewhere in Asia. And I’ve got ants running all over my phone.
MTV: OK. Are you there for fun?
Stone: No, I’m doing some work.
MTV: For people who’ve seen the first two versions of “Alexander” — the theatrical release and the “Director’s Cut” DVD — you’ve already taken up seven hours of their lives. What would you say to those who are doubtful about buying this new “Alexander Revisited: The Final Cut” DVD and giving you another three and a half hours?
Stone: [He laughs.] Wait a second. The first two versions are under three hours — that’s the point. It’s technically less than six.
MTV: OK, then. You’ve only taken up six hours of their lives.
Stone: Less than six.
MTV: Five and a half, no biggie.
Stone: OK, we’ll call it five and three-quarters. Listen, those who liked it would be the only ones who saw it the second time, so those who liked it will appreciate this cut the most because it’s the richest and fullest version. It’s the clearest interpretation. It’s a very complex story, and this is the version for me.
MTV: You inserted several minutes of an intermission card at the end of the first DVD on this two-disc set. Why?
Stone: This is the way it should have been made in the first place. We’re living in another age. The road-show movie that I grew up with, which was three and a half hours and had an intermission, is gone. They don’t do that anymore in American theaters, which is a big mistake because it’s a beautiful bond between audience and filmmaker. With “JFK,” I should’ve had a break. Right after [Donald] Sutherland and [Kevin] Costner finish on the bench, there was so much information given. That would’ve been the perfect time to stop and think about it before the finale.
MTV: So what exactly is wrong with the theatrical “Alexander” and 2005’s eight-minutes-shorter “Director’s Cut”?
Stone: Sometimes a large story needs to be told. When you truncate it to try to make things go faster for a modern audience, you lose out. And sometimes it makes less sense. I feel that both [previous] versions were truncated for arbitrary purposes — to make it less than three hours — and that’s my fault. My contract, of course, called for three hours or in that area. If I had bitten the bullet [in 2004] and said, “Look, I want to release a three-and-a-half-hour movie,” it would have gone down like a bomb.
MTV: What sort of things have you brought back?
Stone: Well, there was sexual material in there that was pretty controversial. There’s a eunuch in the new version — a eunuch is like a third species. They had enough problems with [Jared Leto’s gay character] Hephaistion hanging around.
MTV: Be honest: How long will the next cut be?
Stone: [He laughs.] No, no. I call this version the final [cut] because there’s nothing more to be had. This is it. This is the way it was written the first time.
MTV: Do you feel that this cut makes Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie or any of your other actors look better or worse?
Stone: Rosario Dawson is more explained, and I think you see the parallels between her and the mother clearer. Besides Colin, Anthony Hopkins’ Ptolemy is the best served from this, in that he finally gets to say what he needs to say. It’s crucial to understand what he says, because to me he represents history and the whole way of looking at Alexander.
MTV: Recently, 40 seconds of never-before-seen footage taken moments before JFK’s assassination went public. Do you still stay up on such things?
Stone: No, I’m out of the country. What happened?
MTV: It’s on YouTube. It’s a whole new angle.
Stone: Really? I would love to see the film, but I can’t see anything from where I am. A lot of this stuff has emerged over the years; some of it has been flimsy and false, and some of it has been accurate and still gets covered up. If [my theory] is true, and something says what I think did happen, believe me, it’s not going to come to the light of day easily.
MTV: A lot of people seemed almost disappointed when “World Trade Center” didn’t become another Oliver Stone conspiracy movie. I know you didn’t want to give in to the cliché, but do you think someone else will eventually make the great 9/11 conspiracy film?
Stone: No, I don’t think so. Unlike the JFK murder, where [Lee Harvey] Oswald denied that he was involved — he said he was a patsy and was killed, and everything he said to the cops was buried — this is a whole different story. You have the perpetrators in al Qaeda claiming over and over again that they did it, and there is a motive. Also, it was so well-planned, so disastrously planned and well-done, it would be impossible for the United States government to have planned it.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Alexander.”
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