Troy – the Movie!
Troy (starring Brad Pitt)
The release of the Warner Bros film “Troy” in 2004 brought alive the drama, spectacle, romance and rivalries of the Troy story to a new generation. It renewed interest in the legendary story and the number of visitors to the site of ancient Troy increased considerably.
The tag line for the movie sums it up: “Throughout time, men have waged war. Some for power, some for glory, some for honor - and some for love”. Who will ever forget the sight of hunky but moody Brad Pitt as “Achilles”, landing his boats and charging up the beach, or battling it out with Hector, or soul-searching in his tent? Spectacle, power politics, and a golden lock of hair dangling over his forehead - Troy had it all and reaped the rewards at the box office. Brad Pitt worked out for 6 months to gain the necessary biceps to convey the warrior qualities of his character. His balletic movements in battle were choreographed by Richard Ryan, the fight arranger, who did a memorable job.
The main stars were Brad Pitt as “Achilles”, Eric Bana as “Hector”, Orlando Bloom as “Paris”, Diane Kruger as “Helen”, and Peter O'Toole as “King Priam”. “Menelaus” was played by Brendan Gleeson and “Agamemnon” by Brian Cox. It was directed by Wolfgang Petersen, scripted by David Benioff, and stirringly scored by James Horner, with a blockbuster budget to match.
The Troy movie was shot on location in Malta and Mexico. The main sets were built in Malta and other scenes shot around the Maltese coastline in the idyllic coves at Mellieha Beach and the tiny island of Comino. In Mexico, the cast and crew crowded into the sunny beach resort of Cabo San Lucas. The extras were mostly Mediterranean-looking Mexicans and Bulgarian athletes recruited from the Sports Academy in Sofia, who all fought magnificently. The Bulgarians went on strike at one point to protest their paltry wages, which were later upped from 12 US dollars a day to 32 dollars a day.
The film was not without its critics. Did you spot the llamas on the beach or the jumbo jet flying overhead during the duel between Hector and Achilles? Did you notice that they used wiggly plastic spears and styrofoam swords instead of real ones? When coins were placed over the eyes of dead warriors on the funeral pyres, did you wonder how that could be, since coins were not invented until much later?
Although the movie was based on Homer’s Iliad, some liberties were taken with the story line. The Greeks overcame Troy just a month or so after landing while according to tradition it took ten years. In the legend (but not the movie) Achilles had died before the Greeks built the wooden horse. Agamemnon wasn’t killed by Briseis nor was Menelaus killed by Hector. Both survived the war. Hector didn't kill Ajax, he killed himself because of a wrangle over some armor. Quibbles? Maybe, but it did confuse viewers who had lived with the classical scenario ever since childhood.
Other Troy movies
The timeless story of the Trojan War has been a perennial favorite and several other retellings of the legend have made it to the silver screen, not to mention TV mini series (1956, 2003). Most notable perhaps was the 1956 Warner Bros Cinemascope epic “Helen of Troy”, directed by Robert Wise and starring Stanley Baker as Achilles, Rossana Podesta as Helen (with curly blond hair this time) and 1950s “sex kitten” Brigitte Bardot as Helen's handmaiden. This was a big-budget movie with solid production values; music by Max Steiner and cinematography by Harry Stradling Snr. The film was a hit, thank goodness considering the budget, and the publicity trumpeted: “Its Towering Wonders Span the Age of Titans!”
This time, the film was shot at Cinecitta Studios outside Rome. The sets, which cost a fortune, burned down mid-production and were hurriedly rebuilt. The extras were all Italians. The wooden horse was made of balsa wood and had air-conditioning inside so the actors didn’t stifle from the heat. The major difference between Brad Pitt’s Troy and this film (also supposedly based on the Iliad) was that it tells the tale from the Trojan side. Again, the script takes liberties with the accepted version. Thus, the love affair between Paris and Helen, Queen of Sparta, comes about after she nurses him back to life when he is shipwrecked off the coast of Sparta! Paris is portrayed as a hero and great leader, unlike Orlando Bloom’s cowardly wimp. In this movie, the scheming Greek kings are only interested in grabbing the treasure of Troy (there is some historical evidence for this) and the reclamation of Helen is a mere excuse towards this goal.
Italy was a favorite location for sword and sandal epics of the 1950s and 1960s. In 1962 the lavish costume epic “The Wooden Horse” was released (also known as "La, Guerra di Troia"). It starred strongman Steve Reeves as Aeneas, one of the commanders of the Trojan Army who vows to save the city of Troy from the Greeks. It was filmed on location in France, Yugoslavia and Italy with Italians in many of the leading roles. The tag line was: “Mighty in Battle! Mighty in Love! The World's Mightiest Man in the Mightiest Spectacle Ever Filmed.” (This film should not be confused with the WWII POW escape flick of the same name.) "The Trojan Horse" movie was popular enough for the producers to call Steve Reeves back for a follow-up, “The Avenger” (1962), also known as “The Last Glory of Troy,” in which Aeneas and his Trojan warriors take on the evil Etruscans to preserve the honor of their hometown.
To go back a little further in time, the 1927 First National silent film “The Private Life of Helen of Troy” had tag lines (actually written on the screen, of course) such as: “They make the Jazz-Age look like slow music! When Helen went for a joy-ride they sent a thousand ships to bring her back! Her love affairs have been secrets for 2,700 years! Hundreds of beautiful women - gorgeous clothes - dazzling pageants of breath-taking splendor.” This movie, directed by Alexander Korda and starring the ravishingly beautiful Hungarian actress (and first wife) Maria Corda as Helen, cost over a million dollars and won an Academy Award for “Best Title Writing”. What a pity then that only 27-30 minutes now survive of this great movie that first brought “Helen and her playmates” to the screen.
Right at the beginnings of cinema history, the Italians made a movie called “La Caduta di Troia” (The Fall of Troy) in 1910. Directed by Giovanni Pastrone, it featured Paris and Helen floating across the screen on a giant seashell on their way to Troy, the Wooden Horse of Troy, of course, and thrilling scenes of mayhem as the Greeks pour into the city.