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Forgining An Ancient Army
Stone asked that the highest level of historical accuracy be achieved in every detail of the film, from props to costumes to the film's elaborate battle sequences. In order to achieve the level of realism the director was looking for, Captain Dale Dye, USMC (Ret.), Stone's longtime collaborator and perhaps the film industry's foremost military expert, was brought in to train star Colin Farrell and the rest of the key performers who portray Alexander's comrades. Stone and Dye first started the now commonplace practice of holding military ‘boot camps' when they worked together on Platoon nearly 20 years ago. During a long, hard month of work, the cast gained expertise in such archaic specialties as sword fighting, wielding shields, bows and arrows, slings, javelins and sarissas (fearsome lances that measured up to 14 feet long), as well as cavalry horsemanship, standard bearing and military formations. 

"I don't train actors,” states Captain Dye unequivocally. "I train people who become soldiers, and hopefully they have some talent as actors. These kids came in and the first thing they did was learn that there is something more important than themselves. They learned to live with other gents who were in a military unit and support the mission of that unit. My job was to turn them into credible Macedonian soldiers, with an emphasis on the word ‘soldier.' They had to understand that concept before they could understand anything else.”

One of the most significant challenges facing the actors was their varying degrees of experience on horseback. Macedonian cavalry rode bareback, without the benefit of saddle or stirrups, which even for experienced riders is an exceedingly difficult skill to master. Horse trainer Ricardo Cruz Moral and his Spanish team first trained the actors on saddles before moving them to bareback. Finally, he taught the cast how to employ weaponry while riding, for battle sequences in which they had to wield 14-foot-long sarissas while maintaining their positions in historically accurate formations, often in the midst of dust storms that seriously restricted their line of vision.

Also trained by Cruz Moral was 13-year-old Connor Paolo, who was cast by Stone to play young Alexander. Paulo had to master the skills required to effectively portray Alexander's fateful first meeting, and subsequent taming and bonding, with the wild stallion Bucephalas – a catalyzing moment for a young Alexander, who in achieving what several experienced horsemen had failed to do, dramatically won his remote father's approval. Having grown up in New York City, Paolo had no prior experience on horseback. Cruz Moral trained him every day for two months, and by the time the cameras were ready to roll, he rode like a true Macedonian prince. 

Key to the training of the film's actors, stuntmen, extras and soldiers was the re-creation and execution of the "phalanx,” the strategic battle formation developed by King Philip and later perfected by his son Alexander. A phalanx consists of 256 men bearing sarissas, formed 16 by 16 squared, assembled into a nearly impenetrable formation. (The phalanx's modern-day equivalent might well be a tank.) Philip's utilization of the indomitable phalanx and his idea of maintaining a standing army of paid soldiers ensured that when Alexander rose to power, he had the tools in place to conquer the world. 

Says Dye, "The tactics of the phalanx were so good that it was the primary infantry formation employed on the battlefield for 150 years. The only ones who finally beat it were the Roman legions. It provided a field commander like Alexander with a very strong, rigid yet flexible tactical element on the ancient battlefield.”

The training camp proved to be an historical laboratory of sorts. By virtue of experience and practical implementation, Capt. Dye, his staff and the filmmakers discovered the truth behind ac

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