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Intermedia deep into ‘Alexander’

Anyone wondering how committed Intermedia is to Oliver Stone‘s “Alexander The Great” should take a hike out to Pinewood Studios. With shooting set to start Sept. 22 in Morocco, there are already 65 people working full-time at the pic’s U.K. base under the eye of vet producer Iain Smith.

“We have no way back on this one, and we haven’t had it for months,” says Intermedia chairman Moritz Borman.

“We started in December putting the production team together. By Cannes we already had 30 people on this movie; now we have double that. We’ve got the models, the drawings, we’ve bought the costumes, picked up the armory.”

In March, Stone took a clandestine trip to shoot Himalayan backdrops in India. Last week he held a read-through for the entire cast in Dublin (Colin Farrell will play the Macedonian conqueror, with Anthony Hopkins the only other name so far announced); then flew to Thailand to check on the elephant training for the climactic battle scene. He will return there in July for second-unit footage.

The pic, whose budget started off near $200 million but is expected to end up somewhere between $130 million and $150 million, is due to shoot until February. The U.S. release, via Warner, is penciled for Thanksgiving 2004, but there’s talk of moving it forward to late October.

This epic undertaking by a maverick filmmaker represents an enormous gamble by a company whose reputation is already on the line with the imminent release of “T3.”

Borman says “Alexander” doesn’t depend on the public’s appetite for homicidal robots. Nonetheless, the success or failure of the Schwarzenegger vehicle will shape the perception of whether Intermedia is a company equipped to deliver on ambitious promises.

The gamble on “Alexander” would be plenty big enough without the existence of the rival Baz Luhrmann/Leonardo DiCaprio/Nicole Kidman project that Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis is setting up with Universal and Dreamworks.

At Cannes in May, Luhrmann’s glitzy package (Mel Gibson is being mooted as Leo’s dad) proved a powerful distraction for distribs, as Intermedia and its sales rep Summit tried to slot the key foreign pre-sales for Stone’s movie alongside Warner and French co-producer Pathe.

But Stone had the advantage of time — he’s due to start shooting six months sooner than Luhrmann — and a completed screenplay that drew strong reviews from buyers who were allowed to read it under the eye of a security guard in the Summit suite.

No sales have yet been announced for either pic. But Borman says Intermedia comfortably beat the minimum level of pre-sales it was seeking to make its figures add up, and to compensate for the 15-20% drop in the dollar since the start of the year.

Tripictures in Spain and Nordisk in Scandinavia have both told Variety they are buying the Stone movie. France and Benelux have already gone to Pathe, and Korea to Cinema Service.

Only Japan, where DiCaprio is god, hasn’t yet come near the table.

De Laurentiis, whose foreign deal with DreamWorks allows him to sell off selected territories, has lined up Tobis in Germany and a distrib in Japan, thought to be Toho-Towa, subject to approval from DreamWorks.

Borman is clearly exasperated by what he sees as the spoiling tactics of De Laurentiis.

“Dino is behaving like a sore loser,” claims Borman. “He’s going round to everybody giving them indications to try and derail ours, but he can’t. Of course he’s talking to all the foreign distributors, saying everything that’s bad about our film, our company, Oliver and Colin. We’re well on the way to making our movie, but I do think Dino is stepping over the line by not behaving in a more gentlemanly way.”

De Laurentiis won’t give way easily, and he’s got some pretty powerful supporters, including Steven Spielberg, who want Luhrmann to realize his vision of Alexander.

Even Borman confesses that’s a movie he would like to see — just so long as Stone gets his chance to prove he can do it better first.

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