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Too gay for Greeks: Lawyers threaten 'Alexander' suit

By Jessica Su
Court TV

A group of Greek lawyers is threatening to sue director Oliver Stone for portraying Alexander the Great (played by Colin Farrell, pictured) as bisexual.
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Oliver Stone

(Court TV) -- Colin Farrell has played his share of rugged action roles, from the prominently tattooed Bullseye in "Daredevil" to a tussling CIA trainee in "The Recruit."

Now the actor is playing a gay conqueror in November 24's "Alexander," and some in the Greek legal community are not happy with his portrayal.

A group of 25 lawyers in Greece has reportedly threatened to sue film studio Warner Brothers and director Oliver Stone for suggesting that the title ruler was bisexual.

In the epic, Alexander the Great, who established an empire spanning from ancient Greece to India before his death at 32, is married, but also has a male lover, Hephaistion.

The lawyer leading the campaign, Yannis Varnakos, said the impending suit is not an attack against gays, but rather a demand to make the film historically accurate.

"We cannot come out and say that President John F. Kennedy was a shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and so Warner cannot come out and say Alexander was gay," Varnakos told Reuters.

Although Varnakos had not yet seen the film, he claimed there was enough evidence to point to the film's inaccurate references.

In a letter, Varnakos asked Warner Brothers to put a disclaimer in the beginning of the film about the fictional portrayals, according to Reuters.

According to scholars, Stone's portrayal of Alexander does not defame the Macedonian king. Ancient sources, like Arrian and Plutarch, have pointed to Alexander's bisexuality, said Jeremy McInerney, classics professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

"It's part of tradition that Alexander and Hephaistion were lovers. It's not unreasonable to portray that," McInerney said.

"Stone responded that they thought differently back then, and it's true," McInerney said. "Ancient Greek society had a different attitude toward homosexuality and, under certain circumstances, thought it was acceptable."

Stone said he had a historian on the set to ensure the film's accuracy.

The gay community has praised the filmmakers for exploring Alexander's sexuality.

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation director Joan Garry said in a statement that the film "breaks new ground" because it portrays Hephaistion as "the true love of Alexander's life."

"I think the lawyers should see their film before they make up their mind," McInerney said. "But it's a Hollywood film and we shouldn't mistake it for history."

Even if Stone had portrayed Alexander as a cross-dressing rodeo clown, it might make little difference from a legal standpoint.

"The suit's silly. There would be no recognizable cause of action in the U.S.," said Stephen Calvacca, an Orlando, Florida, lawyer who represented one of the plaintiffs in a suit over character portrayals in the George Clooney film, "The Perfect Storm."

"In general, the filmmakers are protected by First Amendment rights," Calvacca said, referring to the freedom of artistic expression.

"If I wrote something that was potentially defamatory about George Washington, his relatives could not sue me," the lawyer said.

The threatened suit does not mark the first time Alexander's sexuality has come under fire. Two years ago, hundreds of Greeks stormed a conference after a speaker presented a paper on Alexander's homosexuality.

Representatives for Warner Brothers and Stone did not return phone calls for comment.

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