Director Oliver Stone's swords-and-sandals epic "Alexander" landed with a thud last year. Aside from the scathing reviews, it cost a reported $160 million to make and took in a mere $34 million on the domestic front.
Now Stone's got a chance at redemption.
"Alexander: Director's Cut," is due out Aug. 2 on DVD, along with a DVD of the theatrical version. The filmmaker spent months poring over the film -- re-editing, re-cutting and re-instating footage, in short, re-examining his sprawling take on the story of Alexander the Great, starring Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer and Anthony Hopkins.
"I'm not running away from the original, which I loved, but the derision was really devastating," the three-time Oscar winner said as he sipped water in his Santa Monica office. "Fortunately, films are now like paintings, permitting for several drafts."
Preparing the DVD was a time of soul-searching for the director, who was forced to reflect on what went wrong the first time around. Shot on three continents in 94 days, the narrative was confusing at times and the pacing problematic, Stone said. It was a weak third act that required the most rejiggering. The fixes may not add clarity, he added, but are emotionally more satisfying.
"Directors don't get paid for working on DVDs -- for us, it's a matter of pride," he said.
Although Warner Bros. is trumpeting the director's cut as a "bold, new film," Stone isn't expecting miracles. The studio is striking a 35-millimeter print for a screening and a Q&A with the director the night of the DVD release as part of the "Hollywood's Master Storytellers" series at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood.
Plans for a limited theatrical release were scrapped, Stone said. "Why go through that again?"
While it's too soon to say what the public reception will be for "Alexander," today's DVD market often offers filmmakers one last shot.
Take David Fincher's "Fight Club," which was deemed excessively violent in the wake of the Columbine shootings. On DVD, it became Entertainment Weekly's pick of the year. And Sergio Leone's epic "Once Upon a Time in America," which had 90 minutes slashed for its 1984 U.S. theatrical run, was brought back to life when released on DVD.
"A director's cut can take a picture that was almost unwatchable in theaters and turn it into a masterpiece," said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix.
For all its shortcomings, "Alexander" was far from a disaster, Stone said. It took in four times as much internationally as it did in the United States. Stone said that he might have been mistaken to assume that Alexander the Great would have mass appeal to Americans who seem to have little tolerance for history.
Perhaps the project would have been more successful as a small, independent venture, he added.