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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Sunday 28th November 2004

To play gay in Hollywood it pays to be straight...

Suddenly, it all becomes clear. I was puzzled as to why Oliver Stone had cast Colin Farrell as Alexander the Great in his three-hour biopic about the Greek hero. After all, the diminutive Irish scallywag is hardly everyone's idea of the greatest military leader in the history of the world. But now the mystery has been solved. It's because Stone has decided to depict Alexander as a closeted homosexual and Farrell is one of only a handful of A-list actors who doesn't have a question mark hanging over his sexuality.

In the film, which has dubbed Queer Eye For the Macedonian Guy, the Greek adventurer dyes his hair blonde, shaves his legs and enjoys an unnaturally close relationship with Hephaestion, his boyhood friend. At one point, Anthony Hopkins, who plays Ptelomy, says of the world conqueror: "Alexander was defeated only once--by Hephaestion's thighs."

Not surprisingly, the Greeks themselves are up in arms about this. A group of Athenian lawyers have threatened Oliver Stone with a lawsuit unless he includes a disclaimer in the film pointing out that it's a work of fiction.

"We are not saying that we are against gays, but we are saying that the production company should make it clear to the audience that this film is pure fiction and not a true depiction of the life of Alexander," says Yannis Varnakos, a spokesman for the 25 lawyers.

Stone is unlikely to agree to this demand. He maintains that the Film is historically accurate and points out that an historian, Robin Lane-Fox, was employed by his production company to review the script and be present on set.

"Alexander had a polymorphous sensuality and was an explorer in the deepest sense of the word," maintains Stone.

Alexander is reported to have cost $160 million and Warner Bros, the studio that financed the picture, is nervous about the effect the film's homoerotic content may have on its reception. Will the American public want to watch a three-hour epic about a Greek homosexual? On the other hand, the more controversy the film generates, the better its box office haul is likely to be. It certainly didn't hurt JFK, Stone's unique take on the Kennedy assassination. That took $112 million worldwide, an impressive amount 13 years ago.

Of course, Alexander would have been even more controversial if a sexually ambiguous star had been cast in the lead. But it's one of the ironies of the Hollywood A-list that only an overtly heterosexual actor can risk playing a homosexual character.


I was astonished to hear that Australians have been ranked the world's hardest workers according to a recent survey by the United Nations. Apparently, Australians work 1,855 hours a year, compared with an average of 1,643 hours across the developed world. The British came seventh, working an average of 1,708 hours a year, while the Norwegians came last, only managing to log 1,376 hours.

As a resident of Shepherd's Bush, I've been exposed to a large Number of Australians and this survey certainly doesn't tally with my experience. The Walkabout pub on Shepherd's Bush Green is always packed to the rafters, even at 5.30pm on a Monday afternoon, and you rarely see an Antipodean on the Uxbridge Road without a "tinny" in his hand.

Indeed, the house two doors down from mine has been rented by a group of Australians and scarcely a day goes past without them gathering around the barbie. These sessions begin at 6pm and normally last for at least 12 hours. They don't actually cook anything, but judging from the cans strewn about the street the following day they drink an enormous amount of beer.

I suppose it's possible that these same drunks and layabouts will all become reformed characters when they return to their homeland and actually do some work. They're certainly very hardy. No matter what the outside temperature, they never vary their Antipodean uniform of surfer shorts, flip flops and tight, white T-shirts. It's the modern-day equivalent of only mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun. These days, only mad dogs and Australians go out at midnight in the dead of winter in Northern Europe looking like they've just stepped off Bondi Beach.


A few weeks ago I took issue with Harden's, the well-known Restaurant guide, for ranking Fifteen as one of the worst restaurants in London. I thought the guide's dismissal of Jamie Oliver's famous East London eaterie was just a publicity stunt.

I should have known better. Earlier this week, I called the reservation number at Fifteen in an attempt to book a table and was surprised to be put straight through to a recording of Jamie himself droning on about the virtues of his restaurant. After a while, I was told that if I pressed the number one on my phone I'd be put through to reservations. No sooner had I done that, than Jamie's voice started up again: "Nice one guys. Now, as you may know, Fifteen is a social venture that trains professional chefs to mentor and train unemployed youngsters..."

After I eventually got through to a real person, I was told that the reservation number I'd dialed was a 'special rate' number and that I'd just been charged over the odds for the pleasure of hearing Jamie's voice and booking a table. I asked if there was an alternative number I could use for future reservations and the answer was "no".

I'd like to take this opportunity to unreservedly apologise to Harden's. This particular guide, which reflects the views of over 7,000 restaurant-goers, is clearly extremely reliable.

A spokesman for Fifteen says the new line gives extra information to customers and points out that Fifteen is a charitable venture. But that's still no excuse for inflicting this new charge on those wishing to visit the restaurant.


Leonardo DiCaprio last week ranted about what he calls "the stalkerazzi"--photographers who make a living from following around celebrities such as him.

"I hate a lot of them, but I have to find a way to deal with it until there's a law," he said. "I hope there is for my sake and the sake of many others because there may be an accident someday and we may lose somebody."

It's ridiculous to call for a change in the law just so a few Pampered movie stars won't be inconvenienced. Being photographed occasionally by someone in a passing car is a small price to pay for the cornucopia of riches that flow from being famous. You didn't expect to get a completely free ride, did you Leo?

In any event, if he doesn't want to be snapped by "the stalkerazzi" all he has to do is keep a low profile. When I was in Los Angeles earlier this year I became friendly with a celebrity photographer called Jeff Rayner and he claimed that the vast majority of stars actually liked having their picture taken.

"If a celebrity doesn't want his or her picture appearing in the paper, it's not that hard to avoid us," he told me. "I've never papped Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, any of the top guys."

In other words, Leo, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

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Twitter RT @QuilletteM: From the archives: Author @_HelenDale asks what would have happened if the industrial revolution happened in Rome? link  (1 hour ago)


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