TROY STORY – by Lynley Dwight
Troy. Brad Pitt. Eric Bana. It’s all Greek to Hotdog.
"Listen," laughs Brad Pitt with all the authority of someone playing the hardest demigod in Ancient Greece, "it’s a Greek tragedy. It’s not the most uplifting of subject matters…but I guess in some of the moments you can be a kid on the playground a little bit."
A kid in an enormous $150 million playground wearing, let’s be honest here, a skirt. Not that we’re going to be saying that to him. For the role as the superbad warbot Achilles in Troy, Pitt’s back to his Tyler Durden physique to get extremely pre-mediaeval on them pesky Trojans.
So how hoes one get into the character of Homer’s favourite one-man abattoir? "For me, the first part of filming I was living a bit more monastic and just keep to myself a little bit. When I say that, I’d still have a chat but I had to confine myself a little bit for the first half to sink into the thing and know where I was."
"Brad and I were pretty lucky," says Eric Bana, the former Hulk now playing Achilles’ arch-nemesis Hector; protector of Troy and brother of wife-stealing pretty-boy Paris (Orlando Bloom). "Because we were cast so early we had longer than most people, so we both started straight away. It was like five or six months of preparation that we had before we started shooting. That was fantastic. And I can only speak for myself, but I needed every one of those months. You’re taking on these iconic characters-it’s a huge task." Troy is huge in pretty much every way. Huge stars, huge budget, huge scope. The film covers virtually the whole of Homer’s epic poem, from Paris and Helen’s running away, the tensions between Achilles and ‘king of kings’ Agamemnon, the enormous, relentlessly bloody ten-year siege of Troy and its big equine denouement.
"There is an old saying that war brings out the worst and the best in human beings," says Troy’s producer/director Wolfgang Petersen. "But war is a disaster for everyone involved. While our film will show the spectacle of battle between tens of thousands of soldiers in a way that audiences have never seen before, the focus of our story is the timeless human aspect of the victories and defeats that Homer recorded."
That’s marvellous, but let’s gets back to that battle between tens of thousand of soldiers. What Hotdog’s really looking forward to is a bloody great punch-up, though obviously because it’s a great metaphor about mankind and not just because it involves 50,000 digitally cloned men in skirts spectacularly killing each other to death.
"It’s a little bit discouraging to see that we haven’t come as far as we think we have," says Pitt.
"We’re not as evolved, like our technology. Personally speaking, we seem to be still dealing with the same issues and same moral issues and therefore the same reasons and I believe that thing really resonates today. I’m not sure how much I’m projecting onto the world from our story and how much Homer really intended but it sure seems to resonate today."
So why do men like to batter each other so much? "Because we’re barbaric," laughs Pitt. "Well, there’s a difference. Troy was about protecting what was theirs and their families. Are our egos so easily wounded? I don’t know."
"It’s interesting," adds Bana, "because if you get a room full of women together and get them drunk, they’re probably not going to pull each other’s hair out. You get in a room full of men together…maybe we’re constructed differently."
Obviously it’s not just a film about blokes hacking each other to death. It’s also about the astonishingly beautiful, occasionally naked woman that made them do it. Having to live up to Helen of Troy’s title of the ‘most beautiful woman ever’ is Diane Kruger. Was it tricky to be the face that launched a thousand ships?
"We talked a lot about the character beforehand," says Kruger, who brushes up quite nicely herself. "I think it was very important for Wolfgang and me to make her very real and not just an image, a physical appearance that she’s so famous for, but make her show the sad life she lived and her loneliness and vulnerability, so people who will see the movie will have compassion for her and understand her decision to leave Sparta with Paris because on paper it was selfish thing to do. But if people don’t feel for her and their love, the movie won’t work because it’s such a horrible thing to do. She’s a very sad person until the day she laid her eyes on Paris."
It’s been a truly epic production, moving from England to Malta and finally off to the sweltering sands of Mexico. It took ten acres to house the massive Troy set, and over 140 tons of plaster to construct. The battle scenes involved well over 1,000 extras, to be digitally multiplied to create the effect of 50,000 angry ancient folk.
"This was the biggest project I’ve ever been on," admits Pitt. "I’ve never seen anything like it to this scale and scope. That’s Wolfgang Petersen and the scope of the story and everyone involved."
It was always going to massive of course, given that Homer’s Iliad covers about ten years and takes nearly as long to read.
"David Benioff [scriptwriter] did a great job pulling pretty much the essence of what Homer was after," says Pitt. "I think. Most of the elements are there. Yes, the feud with Agamemnon over the taking of Briseis and that was in the book as a prize of war."
Did you read the Iliad?
"I found it helps, yeah."
And that is a skirt you’re wearing?
"Listen, if men don’t wear skirts after this movie we have failed," he laughs back.
If you could go back and be a character in the movie, which would you be?
"Well the thing about Greek tragedies is that they’re all screwed!" laughs the face that launched a thousand expensive advertising campaigns. "Every one of them are screwed. Hector was damned, Achilles was haunted, Paris has some fun. But everyone falls in some way."