Galaxie – May 17-31, 2004

GREEK GOD – by Gordon Kho

In the pilot episode of MTV’s latest reality show, I want a famous face, a pair of male twins go under the knife to change their looks. They want the plastic surgeon to make them look like Brad Pitt. It is not surprising that the twenty-something twins want to look like brad Pitt—he is after all one of the most handsome men in Hollywood. He has been called the Sexiest Man alive and voted one of the 50 Most Beautiful People by People magazine. But Brad can tell you that being good-looking, while a positive asset, isn’t always a good thing when one wants to be a respected actor in Hollywood. That explains why Brad tends to run away from pretty boy roles. In Kalifornia, he put on 10kg and spotted greasy hair and beard for the role of a killer. In Fight Club he chipped one of his front teeth for that roughed-up look. In 12 Monkeys, he looked demented as a mental patient. And in his latest outing, the epic movie Troy, brad gets violent in a dress. Well, a gladiator-type dress, that is.

Warner Bros., the studio backing the movie, has arranged for Galaxie to meet with the famous actor at The Regent Beverley Wilshire Hotel which is adjacent to the world famous Rodeo Drive. When we are taken up to the posh suite, the first thing that strikes us is how ordinary Brad Pitt, the Hollywood heartthrob, looks. He has had his long locks [which he grew for Troy] trimmed and is sporting a No. 1 Crew cut. He is dressed in a simple white linen shirt, jeans and boots. The only jewellery on him is his wedding band.

He comes over to shake our hands with his left hand—that’s because he has some candies in his right hand. He probably needs the sugar fix to keep him going as he has been talking to various media representatives from all around the world all morning. As he munches on his candies, Brad starts talking about the movie which has taken him more than a year to shoot, in various locations such as Mexico, Malta and London.

“I had no idea it was going to be this big [a production]. I know it is the Trojan War but there’s still the limitation of technology,” says Brad of the amount of talents and extras involved in the filming of Troy.

Troy is, of course, the long awaited movie from director Wolfgang Petersen which features an all-star cast that includes Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Peter O’Toole, Julie Christie, Brendan Gleeson and Sean Bean. Brad plays the character of Achilles, the great Greek warrior who is enlisted to help steal back Helen, Queen of Sparta from the walled city of Troy.

Shooting an epic film this size was not an easy job, Brad can tell you that. “There wasn’t a Tuesday or Thursday or February the 15th for us when we were filming. There’s a lot of waiting involved. And it is difficult sometimes when you have a scene that requires physical strength. If you maintain such a frequency at the start of the filming, you have to sustain throughout. And it can be difficult.”

But what really irked brad most was the sand. “What I hate most is when the sand gets caught inside your briefs. Seriously!”

OK, since he has brought that up, inquiring minds want to know if the scenes of his legs and thighs in the movie are actually his and not a body double as reported on the internet. Brad signs as he answers this question [probably for the umpteenth time that day], “What do you think? It’s all me, baby!”

This 40-year-old actor should be used to the media’s immense interest in him by now. From his infamous nude photos to the US$1 million wedding to Jennifer Aniston, the media has always tried to get a piece of him, so to speak. However, Brad, who grew up in the town of Springfield, Missouri didn’t actually want to be in show business. Just two credits shy of graduation with a degree in journalism, Brad decided that his future was in music—he wanted to be a rockstar. So in 1986, he packed his bags, and with US$375 n his pocket, he headed to Los Angeles. With thousand of hopefuls and wannabes arriving in Tinseltown everyday hoping to make it big, you don’t exactly get your break right away. Brad had to pay his dues. “I wound up in a giant chicken costume, making clucking sounds, trying to lure customers into an El Pollo Loco fast-food restaurant,” he said in earlier interviews of the first job he held while waiting for his big break.

Within a few months, brad landed guest-star stints in sitcoms such as Head of the Class, Growing Pains and Another World. He also appeared in top-rated shows like Dallas, 21 Jump Street and Thirty-something. However, it wasn’t until 1991 that Hollywood sat up and noticed the blond stud. Although he appeared for less than 10 minutes, brad sizzled on the screen as the hunky hitchhiker Thelma & Louise picked up. From then, it was full-speed ahead for him.

Apart from his talent and good looks, Brad’s careful selection of projects has helped propel him to greater heights in Hollywood. Refusing to just play matinee idol parts, brad has played roles such as a blood-sucking vampire [Interview with the Vampire], spaced out druggie [True Romance], deranged mental patient [12 Monkeys], an Irish terrorist [The Devil’s Own] and a schizophrenic [fight Club]. Having played a wide range of characters, just how does he decide on what projects to take on?

“You really don’t know until you come out of the current project. I know people who are able to line their projects up. But it doesn’t work well for me. But the quest, I can tell you, is to do things you have never done before, a new discovery.”

Like the time when he agreed to return to the medium he started out in, TV, to guest star on the popular sitcom, Friends. It was a good move—his character Will Colbert, Rachel Green’s high school nemesis, garnered him a nomination for an Emmy award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. “They gave the nomination to any famous guy who shows up in a sitcom!” Brad dismisses the nomination with a laugh.

However, it must have been a thrill for him to work opposite wife Aniston in Friends. Brad’s appearance in Friends was the first time the couple worked together but don’t expect to see them working together anytime soon because Aniston has dismissed the idea for now.

When asked whom he would like to work with, Brad shrugs and says that he doesn’t think in terms of who he would like to collaborate with in a movie. “I get more excited at the project itself.” However, in troy, he got the chance to work with the actress he had a crush on when he was growing up. “The first scene that I shot in Troy was with Julie Christie. Oh, wow, I mean I had such a love affair with her. She is the 70s quintessential babe!” he says. “But she plays my mum in the movie,” he laughs.

Right now, Brad is working with the quintessential babe of the new millennium—Angelina Jolie—in Mr and Mrs Smith in the movie, brad plays a hired killer whose target is his wife [Jolie]. Unbeknownst to him, she too is a hired killer and her next target happens to be him! A movie which stars two of Hollywood’s best looking actors must surely be a hit. But Brad isn’t too concerned about the box-office collections of his movies. “I mean, it’s a lot more fun if the movie is successful [commercially]. I look back at my favourite films [that I have starred in] and they didn’t necessarily work at the time of release. It took some time before they were accepted.

With Troy however, we’re quite certain brad Pitt has another winner on his hands.

With a budget of US$215 million, Troy is touted as one of the most ambitious epic films Hollywood has produced. The film is inspired by The Iliad, which was written by ancient poet Homer, considered by many as one of the world’s original literary masters. The poems were said to have been written in the 8th century BC.

“In his epic works, the human drama was overshadowed by the brutality,” director Wolfgang Petersen explains. A contemporary audience needs to come into the story through the lives and passions of the real people caught in this terrifying experience.

Petersen’s Troy is about the passionate relationship between Paris, prince of troy [Orlando Bloom] and Helen, Queen of Sparta [Diane Kruger] which eventually leads to much violence and devastation. You see, Helen is already married to King Menelaus [Brendan Gleeson] but that doesn’t stop Paris from stealing Helen. An insult to Menelaus is an insult to his brother Agamemnon [Brian Cox], the powerful king of the Myceneans. Agamemnon recruits the massive tribes of Greece to steal Helen back from Paris in defense of his brother’s honour. How noble of Agamemnon, right? Wrong! Agamemnon is more interested in taking over the empire of Troy and through this war to reclaim Helen, he might just get what he wants.

But Troy’s King Priam [Peter O’Toole] and Prince Hector [Eric Bana] are no pushovers—they have always defended their walled city with great might. No army has ever managed to defeat Troy. But Agamemnon has a secret weapon—he enlists the help of a great warrior, the arrogant, rebellious and seemingly invincible Achilles [Brad Pitt].

If you think the names are difficult to pronounce, well, the actors involved will tell you that that’s nothing compared to the physical aspects of shooting the movie. “It’s been tiring. It has been very long in the preparation and the shooting. It’s been hot and dusty but I don’t think you could have more fun on the film,” says a scruffy-looking Bana, who had to learn horse riding and sword-fighting in preparation for his role. “It has been the ultimate movie experience.”

Consider this—the battle scenes alone involved 100,000 troops, 1,000 ships [some were CGI] and a Trojan Horse. The final battle scenes alone took two months to shoot. “It does get very hard to pace yourself during shooting, especially when the scenes are very physical and you don’t know when it is going to finish. That can drive me a little crazy. I mean, like when you start a race and you know you are doing a five-mile race, then you’d know how to pace yourself. But with this film, the five-mile race sometimes become seven or 10, you just don’t know how long it’s gonna be,” Bana says.

His co-star, Brad Pitt echoes his sentiments, “I felt very anchored going into this project, if anything, was more interested to go and get this character out, instead of just sitting and waiting around.”

Waiting is part and parcel of filmmaking, especially when shooting a movie this grand. At one point, about 1,000 to 2,000 armed and costumed extras were used for the fighting scenes and miles upon miles of the open beach in Mexico were closed to film the crucial landing of the Greek army ships.

All the actors have nothing but respect for Petersen, who undertook the big responsibility of directing the movie. “He is a good man, that Wolfgang. An alright guy,” Brad gushes about the director. “To be in charge of a production so big, the biggest I have ever been involved, he is constantly the epitome of grace. He is not flustered by the things that will go wrong, especially when it comes to things of this magnitude. He always gives us free reign as far as something we want to do with our characters. You need someone like Wolfgang for something of this scope and scale.”

The 63-year-old director is quite at home with action-packed movies. He has helmed movies such as In the line of fire [starring Clint Eastwood], Air Force One [Harrison ford] and The perfect Storm [George Clooney]. In each of his movies, he has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood so it came as no surprise when he cast brad in the lead role of Achilles in his latest movie. “Brad has both the talent and magnitude to make Achilles believable as tremendous warrior and charismatic leader without sacrificing his humanity in the process,” Petersen reasons. “He’s a wonderful actor and here he really has a chance to show his acting chops and what he can do. And then there are his looks. We all know what he can look like when he doesn’t try and make himself look ugly. Here, he really has the chance to go with all the beauty he has. He did a lot of physical work for six months to get incredible shape and he looks spectacular.”

A lot has been said about the violence in recent Hollywood films. Troy is no different—it has its fair share of violent battle scenes. However, the cast and director have a different way of looking at these scenes. “While our film will show the spectacle of battle in a way that audiences have never seen before, the focus of our story is the timeless human aspects of the victories and defeats that Homer recorded,” Petersen says.

Bana adds, “There’s one common theme hat this film is all about and more than anything it makes the war irrelevant, is that it is just about passion. Just about a bunch of people feeling passionate about life and people they love.”

Like with anything controversial, there’s already criticism that the movies glorifies war with its spectacular fight scenes as well as the intention of Agamemnon to invade troy to increase his power and ensure supremacy in his already vast empire. Brad sums it up best when he argues, “I don’t think that’s what Homer is about [glorifying war]. Are people going to walk out because there is going to be a bad-a** war scene? Well, your maturity level is going to determine if you walk out of this movie or not. What I am telling you is that the elements and themes of the movie are there and you can make is as you want—just like every other thing in life, like religion for example.”