Epic to get head start over Baz/Leo version

Warner Bros. is closing a deal to become the domestic distributor of “Alexander the Great,” a move that allows Intermedia to greenlight its epic for a June start, with Oliver Stone directing and Colin Farrell starring as the Macedonian conqueror.

That gives the film a good chance to start well before the rival Alexander film, which Baz Luhrmann will direct and Leonardo DiCaprio topline. That film will be financed by DreamWorks and Universal since Fox has dropped out.

Both films are the passion projects for a lot of high-powered filmmakers and execs, but they are also among the most expensive films ever attempted.

WB emerged recently as Intermedia’s best hope for a partner. Execs from the studio and Intermedia chairman Moritz Borman and president Basil Iwanyk bonded as WB preps for the summer domestic release of the Intermedia-financed Jonathan Mostow-directed “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” Location for the film wasn’t being revealed, nor was the size of Warner’s contribution to a budget sources said is north of $100 million but under $150 million.

Intermedia’s Stone-Farrell package has been the underdog since the bold pronouncement by producer Dino De Laurentiis that Luhrmann and DiCaprio would reunite in Morocco in January to shoot Ted Tally’s script, complete with cooperation and troops from Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. The financing shakeup, Luhrmann’s attention to the bow of “La Boheme” on Broadway and pic commitments for DiCaprio now put that film’s start date more realistically at fall, at the earliest.

Taking flight

DiCaprio will reteam in May with “Gangs of New York” director Martin Scorsese on “The Aviator,” the Howard Hughes pic developed by Intermedia sister company IEG and Forward Pass partners Michael Mann and Sandy Climan. That film became a reality last week when Miramax and Warner combined to take North American rights.

While the other Alexander project was much in the news, Stone and Intermedia’s Borman were comparatively quiet. The director spent the last year working exclusively on scouting and rewriting a script. The result, said insiders, is as strong as anything the Oscar winner has written. Farrell, who won the role of the charismatic conqueror six months ago after doing a persuasive and extensive screen test with Stone, has quietly cleared his schedule. He’ll be ready to conquer the world next year; his only commitment is the small indie “A Home at the End of the World” for director Michael Mayer, based on a script from “The Hours” author Michael Cunningham.

Foreign still unresolved

Details of the project were agreed to in principle late Thursday, with WB execs, CAA, Intermedia’s Borman, Iwanyk, vice chairman Jon Gumpert and attorney Skip Brittenham ironing out the details. Intermedia will next work out the foreign turf, likely keeping some territories and making deals on others to help pay the freight. Though the company financed the Oscar contenders “Adaptation” and “The Quiet American” and has seven films coming out before “T3,” Intermedia brass have long eyed “Alexander the Great” as its crown jewel.

For WB, “Alexander” becomes the latest in a spate of period films. WB’s partnered with VRP on the Wolfgang Petersen-directed “Troy” with Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom, and is in production on the Ed Zwick-directed “The Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise. WB will also distribute “The Aviator” domestically, with Miramax handling marketing.

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