The 2007 film 300 was a massive box office success, had trailblazing special effects, cemented Gerard Butler and Lena Headey as stars, and sent Zack Snyder down the path toward becoming one of Hollywood’s most powerful comic book-to-blockbuster directors. But looking back at the film now, two things stand out.
1) This was a movie about a bunch of shirtless, ripped men in shorts so short they’d make Harry Styles (or Milo Ventimiglia) blush.
2) Despite its massive success, it never turned into a full-fledged cinematic universe-type of franchise. A 2014 sequel was profitable, but underperformed—and Hollywood has let it remain dormant ever since. That’s curious in the age of Tinsel Town which leaves no IP stone unturned. There’s been talk over the years about possible future projects, including films that would focus on battles outside of Ancient Greece, including even the American Revolution. Still, nothing has come to pass.
Well, this morning, Snyder revealed that he had actually penned a third 300 film to complete the trilogy, but he claims Warner Bros. passed on it because it became a gay love story instead of a fully action-packed war film.
On The Playlist’s The Fourth Wall podcast, Snyder says he began working on the script amid the pandemic. Obviously, it would be a natural choice for the franchise to focus on one of the most successful leaders and military generals in history, Greek or otherwise: Alexander the Great.
“When I sat down to write it I actually wrote a different movie,” Snyder told The Playlist. “I was writing this thing about Alexander the Great, and it turned into a movie about the relationship between Hephaestion and Alexander. It turned out to be a love story. So it really didn’t fit in as the third movie.”
“But there was that concept, and it came out really great. It’s called ‘Blood and Ashes,’ and it’s a beautiful love story, really, with warfare. I would love to do it, [Warner Bros.] said no.”
While it can be tricky to frame the sexual and social mores of ancient Greece into modern parlance, there’s little historical doubt that Alexander’s deepest emotional connection throughout his life was with his male friend Hephaestion. That relationship was, by many historical analyses, most likely sexual. After Hephaestion’s death, Alexander was overcome with deep grief from which he never truly recovered. Narratively, the tale does have everything you want in a major war tragedy epic: one of the greatest military commanders of all time unraveled by the death of his true love.
Incidentally, three years before 300’s original release, Oliver Stone attempted a similar project. Alexander featured Colin Farrell in the titular role with Jared Leto as Hephaestion (Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, and Rosario Dawson also featured in the cast). Stone didn’t shy away from the romantic aspect of Alexander and Hephaestion’s love story, but the studio pressured him to remove certain elements from the film and downplayed any hint of queerness in its marketing. The film was both a commercial and critical flop, but a 2014 director’s cut released on DVD has fared better with critics.
We’ve come so far from George W. Bush-era America, and yet, apparently it’s still impossible to make a successful big-budget war film that doubles as a gay romance.