Baz Luhrmann will take his time in the great race to make “Alexander the Great.”
While Oliver Stone is trying to get his version of “Alexander” into theaters for Thanksgiving 2004, Luhrmann and producer Dino De Laurentiis now say their pic will not be released until at least late 2005.
De Laurentiis told Daily Variety that Luhrmann plans to start filming his Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman starrer in Morocco early next year. At Cannes this month, De Laurentiis will be selling the foreign territories he retained in the co-financing deal between Universal and DreamWorks.
The ambitious project — which carries a budget of around $150 million — requires the casting of some 70 speaking rolesas well as hordes of extras (supplied from the Moroccan army by King Mohammed VI).
“This huge preparation can’t be done in less than eight or nine months,” said De Laurentiis, casting some skepticism on whether the Stone project, to be distributed by Warner Brothers and financed by Intermedia, could keep to its 2004 date.
Stone’s project will star Colin Farrell in the title role, and Anthony Hopkins recently boarded to co-star. (Daily Variety, May 5)
Intermedia chief Moritz Borman reiterated confidence in his production schedule, adding that the pic had 30 staffers already on the payroll. “Set designs are done, the costumes are done. They’re working on a full pre-production schedule,” he said.
Effects unit photography was recently completed in the Himalayas, and production is skedded to begin in Morocco in July for a month. Production will resume there in September after the desert heat subsides.
“From a pure production schedule, there’s no reason we can’t deliver it before fall next year,” Borman said.
Luhrmann now plans to begin his principal photography in April 2004 and shoot for six months. (Borman said Stone plans to shoot for 12 weeks.)
Looking to re-emphasize their project’s viability, the Luhrmann camp on Tuesday marshaled key talent to demonstrate support for their film in the face of a competing project.
“What most attracts me is the complex character of Alexander himself,” said DiCaprio, who will next make Howard Hughes biopic “The Aviator” with Martin Scorsese. “His legend is one of the most compelling stories in human history.”
Kidman, who will play Olympia, said, “She is unlike any other woman I’ve played before, and it’s a role I’m really looking forward to.”
Luhrmann has been trying to get his “Alexander” epic off the ground for the last decade. 20th Century Fox was originally going to partner with Universal, but stepped out. Then DreamWorks stepped in.
The pic was also impacted by the U.S. war in Iraq, which briefly led to plans to shoot in Luhrmann’s native Australia. Production is now again planned for Morocco.
If both projects go forward, it’s possible that the two “Alexander” epics could reach screens within a year of each other.
Intermedia’s Borman said there was room for both.
“Oliver and I have always said there’s nothing wrong with two Alexander projects,” he said. “On the surface it might not make sense. But they just have to be vastly different, and with those two filmmakers they are.”