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Wild things: Inside the making of ''Alexander''

Inside the making of ”Alexander” — Here’s how the epic adventure overcame casting doubts (Angelina as Colin’s mom?!?), on-set catastrophes, and those pesky tabloid rumors

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Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie
Farrell & Jolie Photograph by Martin Schoeller

It’s a January afternoon in Thailand, two hours north of Bangkok in a sweltering nature reserve that serves as the Indian jungle set for Alexander. The scene today calls for a massive battle during which Colin Farrell charges a group of carefully trained war elephants on horseback. The problem is that elephants and horses turn out to be like cats and dogs — except, you know, a couple of tons heavier. So when director Oliver Stone calls ”Action,” the Irish actor spurs on his steed, only to be thrown, trampled, and squashed by 1,400 pounds of whinnying, terrified horse. A gasp echoes across the forest as animal trainers rush in. The horse is removed. The elephant subdued. And Stone’s Alexander the Great lies on the black ground in a puddle of his own blood.

On most movies, this would be a disaster. Production would stop. Medics would be dispatched. Agents called and producers disemboweled. But on Alexander — Stone’s independently financed, $150 million dream project — it’s just a blip. After all, the peripatetic production has already weathered wild rumors of on-set sexual merry-go-rounds, brushes with total financial catastrophe, travel from Marrakech to London to Thailand, and some very, very bad blond hair. Is the project visionary? Quite possibly. The work of great passion? Unquestionably. An exercise in near madness? Without a mother-loving doubt.

Stone sighs and looks his friend and leading man over. ”Will he be okay?” he asks no one in particular. ”Okay, then. Let’s keep going.”