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Hannity

Can Hollywood Be Trusted With History?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Nov. 25, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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OLIVER NORTH, GUEST CO-HOST: Welcome back to HANNITY AND COLMES. I'm Oliver North, sitting in tonight for Sean Hannity.

Oliver Stone's "Alexander" opened in theaters nationwide today amidst controversial claims the film takes too many historical liberties. Is this just another example of Hollywood butchering history to make a profit?

Joining us now, from Tampa, Florida, classics professor and author of "Envy of the Gods: Alexander's Ill-Fated Journey Across Asia," Professor John Prevas.

Prof, I've got a question. You saw the movie today, and I want full disclosure here.

JOHN PREVAS, CLASSICS PROFESSOR: I did.

NORTH: I have got an agenda here. I don't like Oliver Stone. I don't think he is an historian. My job here at FOX, when I'm not substituting and trying to keep Alan Colmes in line for Sean Hannity, is to be the documentarian.

I cover the stuff of history, and let the people who did it actually speak. Does this guy let Alexander speak as he really was?

PREVAS: You know, Oliver, one of the things I've always admired about you is that you set out your cards right away.

In my opinion, what Oliver Stone has done really is he's taken a lot of liberties here, and he has made a lot of historical inaccuracies. I watched the film this afternoon, and chronologically the film is a mess.

My fear is that what is going to happen is your average viewer is going to come out of there with a very confused picture of Alexander the Great. Now, on the positive side, what Oliver Stone has done is, I think, he's given a very accurate portrayal of Alexander's personality.

In that regard, he cast Colin Farrell as Alexander. And I think Colin Farrell brings to the screen a very, very interesting combination of some of Alexander's personality facets.

We have here sensitivity, if you will, a man who is very vulnerable, a man who is very connected to his mother, and yet at the same time a man who is incredibly dangerous, a man who is very driven, a man who is very aggressive. So I think Colin Farrell really brings those two facets to the screen.

The only thing I couldn't get over was his Irish accent and the Irish accents of all those who are around him. That was hard to follow. I mean, here we are in Ancient Greece, and they've all got an Irish brogue?

NORTH: Well, of course, the major battles that this guy fights really aren't in Greece at all. They're in modern day Iraq.

PREVAS: They are.

NORTH: The chronicles of how he defeats the Persians over there — they're still studied at the military academies around the world, including our own West Point and my alma matter called Annapolis.

I guess the problem I have got with what these Hollywood folks do in general — take the movie, for example, "Pearl Harbor," which is a travesty. I mean, they describe people who are at Pearl Harbor as being part of Doolittle's raid on Tokyo in April 18 of '42. And, of course, nobody who was at Pearl Harbor was a participant in that raid.

What I'm concerned about is that the young people who see this, who haven't had the benefit of studying the classics with you — they have never read the great history of the extraordinary warfare that this guy waged — very successfully against sometimes numerically superior enemies like the Persians in that battle right outside of what is today Mosul. It strikes me that what you've got are people who take the wrong lessons from that history. Is that not a problem?

PREVAS: Well, I don't think — Oliver, I think one problem is that they don't even get the proper lessons. When we look at, for instance, you mentioned the famous battles of Alexander. The most famous one of all, that Oliver Stone portrays is in Iraq, north of modern-day Mosul. And there the battle is very confused. It's hard to figure out exactly what's going on.

There are some historical accuracies. There are a lot of historical inaccuracies. He has things happening that never happened. He has things happening [in one place] that happened much earlier in the chronology.

The second important battle that Stone deals with is Alexander's fight against the Indian king and that comes very late in his career.

COLMES: Hey, Professor Prevas, it's Alan Colmes. It's good to have you on the program. Welcome.

PREVAS: Yes, sir. Thank you for having me.

COLMES: You know — thank you for being here. You know, the British scholar you clearly are familiar with, Robin Lane Fox. He wrote what some say is the definitive biography of Alexander the Great. He praises this film in some respects. And he says that Stone kept to the historical record of his life and times. You disagree with this...

(CROSSTALK)

PREVAS: Well, I can tell you this. First of all, Robin Lane Fox is without a doubt one of the best historians on Alexander. He wrote, as you point out, the definitive work. His scholarship is certainly first-class and above reproach.

But the errors are there. And no one, not even Robin Lane Fox, can deny that the errors exist. Now, what I suspect happened is Oliver Stone probably took, should we call, artistic direction, took it away. I mean, we certainly had a lot of cases where directors go their own way. They don't really listen to their historical consultants all the time.

COLMES: Now let me ask you about some of the people in the Greek community who are upset about Alexander the Great being portrayed as bisexual. Is that something you have a problem with? Is that a fair portrayal of his life?

PREVAS: Well, first of all, I'm a Greek citizen, all right? And you have to understand, the Greeks get upset about a lot of things very easily.

(LAUGHTER)

The Greeks are now — you know, the fact that the ancient Greeks didn't even consider Alexander to be Greek. He was at best one of their distant Barbarian cousins. And now, of course, because he is so famous, they claim him as one of their own. Back then, they didn't want to hear it.

Now they claim him as one of their own, and they're all upset because of the way the bisexuality of Alexander is portrayed in the movie. In that regard, I think Oliver Stone got it right.

Alexander the Great was clearly, when we look at the manuscripts, bisexual. There's no doubt about that.

COLMES: All right. If you're going to recreate something from thousands of years ago, and I know that the sequence is allegedly wrong in this film, but can you possibly — you have to recreate dialogue. Clearly, there are going to be some errors if you're going to go back 3,000 years. You can't possibly have an accurate representation to work from.

PREVAS: All right. But what I'm doing here is I'm not nitpicking. These are major errors. He has people showing up late in the chronology who were long dead. For instance, one of Alexander's senior commanders and political advisers… [appears] in Afghanistan with Alexander [when he was dead] well before Alexander went into Afghanistan. He was murdered at Alexander's direction. So that's a major error there.

NORTH: Professor, I want to thank you very much for taking time to join us.

PREVAS: Oliver, thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

NORTH: I wish I could sit down in your next class. Thank you.

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