powered by AFI
The film's pressbook and reviews offer various spellings of some of the characters' names. The cast and character list above reflect the screen credits whenever possible. Opening credits include the following written acknowledgment: "Grateful acknowledgement is made of the co-operation shown by the Spanish government, its Army, the Ministry of Informacion y Turismo, and to the officials and people of the various localities in Spain in which this film was made: Madrid, Manzanares, El Molar, Rascafria, Segovia and Malaga." Robert Rossen's screen credit appears as "Written, Produced and Directed by Robert Rossen." The film is preceded by the following written prologue: "It is the year 356 in a troubled, exhausted, divided, bloody Greece." The film opens with a scene in Athens, in which the Greek statesmen "Aeschenes" and "Demosthenes" are making public speeches about the conqueror "Philip of Macedonia"'s legacy. The setting then shifts to a flashback of Philip's campaigns, leading up to Battle of Chaeronea.
A voice-over epilogue, which states "Wonders are many but none is more wonderful than man himself," is a quotation from Sophocles' play Antigone (440 B.C.). The film follows the basic facts of the life of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.), as well as other details, including his murder of his friend Cleitus, and the emperor's belief that he was a god. According to historical record, Alexander the Great May have died of influenza or pneumonia.
March and August 1954 Hollywood Reporter news items indicated that Twentieth Century-Fox was planning a film based on the life of Alexander the Great, titled Alexander the Conqueror, with producer Frank Ross. Author Louis de Wohl was then signed to write the screenplay, and locations were being scouted in India. However, that film was never made and is unlikely to have been connected to Rossen's production. Various contemporary news items reported that Alexander the Great was in development for approximately three years while Rossen completed his copious research. The budget, originally estimated at $2,000,000, grew to a negative cost of $4,000,000 by the conclusion of production. According to a December 20, 1955 news item in Daily Variety, Spain's C.B. Films, which, according to copyright records was based in Switzerland, formed a production partnership with Rossen in exchange for Spanish distribution rights. The film was shot entirely on location in Spain. Between 5,000 and 6,000 Spanish extras were used during filming. Life magazine noted that battle scenes included "Madrid mounted police, whose chief played the part of a high priest traveling with Alexander in the film," and that Spain's army also contributed three hundred cavalrymen.
A April 24, 1955 article in New York Times indicated that Rossen began scouting locations as early as August 1954. Various news items and an article in This Week magazine, dated September 4, 1955, noted that Rossen had originally planned to shoot on location in Greece, Persia or Yugoslavia, but these countries lacked suitable film production facilities. In addition to the locations noted in the onscreen acknowledgment, the pressbook in copyright records adds the following locations: La Cabrera, as the plains of Axios; La Pedriza, as the setting for the battle of Cheronea; El Vallon, as the public meeting place in Athens and the Palace of Persepolis and Barajas as the setting for the battle of Granicus. As noted in a New York Times article dated April 24, 1955, Alexander the Great marked Rossen's first film in CinemaScope. According to earlier news items in Variety, the VistaVision process was also under consideration by Rossen, who tested both in England in November 1954. Rossen also edited the film in London in 1955 and early 1956, according to a December 30, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item.
The Los Angeles premiere on March 28, 1956 was a charity event to benefit the Southern California Olympic Fund. According to a October 17, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, Rossen was nominated for directorial achievement by the Screen Directors Guild for his work in Alexander the Great. In a later interview, Rossen noted that the original running time was approximately three hours, but that studio officials convinced him to edit the picture further to shorten it. A modern source also adds that John Cassavetes was briefly considered for the lead.
In 2003, filmmakers Oliver Stone and Baz Luhrmann were in production on competing motion pictures about Alexander the Great. Stone's production was released in 2004 and featured Colin Farrell as Alexander, as well as Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie. Luhrmann's production, initially planned for a 2005 release, was still in development as of June 2005. The production tentatively will star Leonardo DiCaprio as the emperor, and Nicole Kidman as Olympias.