Would the real Alexander step forward? Rival movies portray bisexual lover and action hero

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The Independent Culture

Baz Luhrmann, the Moulin Rouge! director, is depicting Alexander the Great as a bisexual love-god - which is likely to contrast starkly with the conquering hero in Oliver Stone's rival production.

While Stone's Alexander will be played by the Irish bad boy Colin Farrell, the young girls' heart-throb Leonardo DiCaprio will step into the pleated skirt for Luhrmann's shoot.

And whereas Stone's previous biopics of strong - if often flawed - leaders such as John F Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Fidel Castro indicate the likely tenor of his Alexander the Great, Luhrmann is clearly intent on giving the Macedonian king a touch of sexy flamboyance.

Luhrmann, who was providing some clues to the new work at the Venice Film Festival, was asked whether he would portray Alexander's well-chronicled bisexuality. He said: "I think [the thing] to say about Alexander is that he could not be loved enough, and the reason I'm not just saying 'yes' is because it's bigger than that. He had sex from everyone and everything ...he couldn't be loved enough."

The sudden surge of interest in Alexander the Great follows the phenomenal success of the Russell Crowe film Gladiator, which received five Oscars.

New digital technology has contributed to the rage for stories set in the past by making it affordable to have casts of digital thousands. Vin Diesel is to feature in a movie about Hannibal's siege of Rome while Brad Pitt is lined up to play the Greek hero Achilles in a version of the sacking of Troy.

As many as four rival Alexander movies were in development in the immediate aftermath of Gladiator, but Luhrmann stressed that there was room enough for both the two productions remaining.

His version will explore Alexander's childhood, with particular emphasis on his mother, Olympias, played by Nicole Kidman, and Aristotle as Alexander's boyhood tutor.

Stone's version, with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie alongside Farrell, is the one that is likely to reach the cinemas first. Luhrmann is still in the middle of a worldwide search for a nine-year-old actor good enough to play the young Alexander and pass as a younger version of DiCaprio. He hopes to start shooting next April.

Stone, too, seems unconcerned at the prospect of an alternative vision. "You could tell any number of stories about Alexander," he said in one interview at the weekend, "because he is such a powerful character."

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