‘Alexander’ terror driven

Suicide attacks push biopic out of Africa

CANNES — Following a wave of suicide attacks that killed 41 civilians last week in Casablanca, Dino De Laurentiis plans to move the production of Baz Luhrmann’s biopic “Alexander the Great” to Australia.

De Laurentiis, who built a studio to house “Alexander” in Ouarzazate, less than 300 miles from Casablanca, has decided the political conditions are too precarious.

“Unless the situation changes in five or six months,” De Laurentiis said, “any important American actor could be a target. That is a risk I cannot take.”

De Laurentiis’ defection to Australia comes weeks after Wolfgang Petersen abandoned plans to shoot scenes from “Troy” in Morocco. Petersen’s sword-and-sandal tentpole, which began production last month, is shooting instead in London, Malta and Mexico.

There are still a handful of international co-productions considering Moroccan locations, including Intermedia’s rival “Alexander the Great” biopic, directed by Oliver Stone. Pic is still eyeing a summer start date in Morocco, though the producers say they are exploring other locations.

Until recently, studios were considering Moroccan settings for a number of tentpoles, including “Tripoli,” “Gladiator 2” and the next installments of “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones.”

The producers of big-budget pics, including “Black Hawk Down,” “Gladiator” and “Four Feathers,” have long been drawn to Morocco for the unique landscape and light, veteran crews and cheap labor.

De Laurentiis, who is in pre-production on “Alexander,” said Luhrmann expects to start shooting digital footage in November and begin rehearsals with Leonardo DiCaprio, who stars, in January.

De Laurentiis traveled to Cannes to line up “Alexander” pre-sales in six territories. He is close to deals with distribs in Japan, Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the U.K.

To help convey the feeling of the movie, De Laurentiis said, buyers have been shown a promo reel that Luhrmann assembled and a photo album with digitally doctored shots of DiCaprio riding a horse in full gladiator attire.

“When you buy ‘Alexander,’ you’re buying something unique,” De Laurentiis told Daily Variety. “Whatever they spend, they’ll recoup. People will want to put it in the library for future generations. It will play forever in DVD and on television.”

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