A/V Room









Troy - Wolfgang Petersen Q&A

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. You've done everything from underwater to outer space, with a lot of terrestrial stuff in between, but did you imagine you would ever get the chance to make an epic in this sort of mode? Or did it seem unthinkable, perhaps, ten years ago?
Oh yeah, absolutely. When I was a boy, when I was at school, I became an Achilles fan, because I was in a school where we learned old Greek and Latin, and then The Iliad came, and there was Achilles.
He was like a James Dean, or a Marlon Brando, for me, the ultimate rebel. He was wonderful. He just lived by his own rules and nobody else's; he would not accept any kind of authority. He was my guy.
Now, so many years later, Warner Bros said they had developed a story based on The Iliad, and I really thought, 'my God, this is what I want to do'.
We knew it would be difficult to get the might of Iliad into a single screenplay, but if it [the script] was any good, I wanted to do it. And boy it was good, it was very good.
And then Brad Pitt right away said that he wanted to play Achilles, and within two weeks, the whole project was already gone.
So from about two years ago to now, the whole thing was done. It's a very short period of time. And now we're sitting here, talking about this movie, and I had no idea that, eventually, after reading about it when I was 16, that it would come true. It's a dream come true.

Q. How important was it to hire Peter O'Toole?
From the very beginning, I had the feeling that this movie would be in the tradition of the great David Lean films, hopefully. So it would be a wonderful nod to those kind of movies, and to David Lean, to get Peter O'Toole.
But not only that. Peter is one of the great, great actors of all-time, and what he brings with him, as an actor - with 50 years' of wonderful work behind him - he would add something to the role of Priam that, probably, no one else could.
We met in this hotel [The Dorchester], Diane [the producer] and myself, and it was just a wonderful experience.

Q. Did it take a long time to find your Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships?
Yeah, I wanted to have someone who was unknown, a new face, a fresh face, because I really liked that idea a lot, instead of going with an actress who is very beautiful, very known and we have seen her in many parts.
I thought, here, that Diane [the producer] and myself were very involved with the casting, and we always said that, especially on a big cast such as this, there is an art of casting. It's very, very, very important.
We felt that it makes a lot of sense to have a big superstar, like Brad Pitt, to play Achilles, because Achilles was definitely a superstar, like a rock star of his time. So it made sense to cast a star, especially a beautiful man like Brad, because Achilles was such an attractive man.
Hector was different, and we disagreed at the early stage, which makes quite a funny story.
Diana came to me and said that she had just seen someone on the street, who she thought was Eric Bana, whose doing The Hulk right now, and he looks great! He could play Hector.
And I had just seen Chopper, you know, and he was a monster in that, 50lbs heavier than this guy, and it was like, 'he should play Hector? What's wrong with you girl?!'
But when she reassured me that he had lost weight, we invited him to my office, and spoke to him, and I fell in love with Eric immediately, because he looked great, and I like Australians very much... Right from the outset, he was such a noble guy, and so honest. He talked about his family and his kids and so on, so I thought he was ideal for Hector.
So, in Achilles/Brad Pitt, you have the superstar, and here you have an actor, like Eric, who is not a star yet, who will be a big one, who was on the way up.
It's so easy, in a cast like this, to have another star, and another star, and another one, but it's wrong, it's a mistake, and you shouldn't do that. It's been done before, in the past, and it never works, so I thought the mix of a big star and an up and coming one would work.
Now Helen, she was very known in that time, as the most beautiful woman, but no one had seen her. She was somewhere hidden in Sparta. She wasn't going from battlefield to battlefield, like Achilles, so I thought it would be great to find somebody who, for an audience, was a new face. There would be no baggage there, she would be Helen from Sparta.
It was a long, long, long search, of course, some 3,000 people. It was a very, very hard job, to watch 3,000 beautiful women [laughs]; no, I'm kidding, I saw maybe 200 or so.
But then, all of a sudden, I was sort of slumped in my chair, watching beautiful woman number 158, and we were already in that cynical mode, where we had created a currency of, say, 212 ships (with 1,000 being the best).
All of a sudden, we had an 855 here. I sat upright in my chair, because she was so good, and so beautiful... She's a great actress, and I was really moved by what she was doing. But she had something in her eyes that you cannot explain when you look right into the soul of somebody; it's much more than about good acting. So we invited her, and the rest is history...
The studio remained a little bit reluctant, because a big name was on their wish-list, but we were insistent and thank God we were, because I feel this will be the beginning of a wonderful, wonderful career for her.

Q. How did you come to the casting of Orlando Bloom? And did his ability as an archer have anything to do with it?
First of all, this guy walked into our room in The Dorchester, with an unbelievable smile on his face and black hair. And I said, 'who's that?', to which Diane replied: "That's the guy from Lord of the Rings..."
I had to ask who; I had no idea because in that film he was this guy with long, blonde hair, and I couldn't recognise him, so I had to get used to him.
But that wasn't really the question, it was more like he was so beautiful, and young, and very, very clever in the way that he talked about playing the part of Paris and what he would do with it. He absolutely saw that it would be hard, as he is a coward, and we fell in love with him right away.
Again, when you talk about the art of casting, Paris was a very famous man, all the girls loved him, because he was such a beautiful, young playboy type, the Prince of Troy, so Orlando was known for that part - not bad.
When I heard, later on, the girls screaming outside the hotel because he was there, I think it was a good choice!
But in regards to the bow and arrow; that was just Homer. It came in handy, his experience with Lord of the Rings.

Q. We've seen a lot of films in the past that are based around a star, or a pair of stars, but now we seem to be veering towards more ensemble-driven pieces. Is that a trend you think we will see more of now?
I hope so. I enjoyed it so much, what we have here, as it had a different kind of structure to it. I don't like films where you have one star, who gets $25m, and the rest get like $1 because there is nothing left [laughs].
These poor fellas have to carry the whole movie, so it's huge pressure. I think it's wrong. Life is not like that.
If we go like Troy and other films, now, you get a different sort of pleasure and joy from watching a lot of great actors, together.
Take this film, for example, if you go from Brad Pitt, and Eric Bana, and the younger ones like Orlando, and then great actors, such as Sean, and then Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, and, of course, our women, and then you go to legendary actors such as Peter O'Toole and Julie Christie, I mean, what a rich casting. How much additional pleasure in just watching a big movie, and a great movie, but watching a dozen of these wonderful actors. I think it adds so much to it, and I hope that we come back to casting more in that direction.

Q. Can you recall an epic that you saw in your life that made you go 'wow'?
Lawrence of Arabia.

Q. At the start of the film, the relationship between Helen and Paris is already established. There is no lead-up. Why was that decision made?
I think we had the feeling that we didn't need it. If you have a very complex story to tell, based around what that triggers, and go into how they fell in love, it would be too much for the audience. It would seem like more of a love story.
I thought it was much better that we jumped in when they just fell in love, and not put too much of an emphasis on how they fell in love. It's very easy to mislead an audience. We set it up so that it was already happening, as we did with the relationship between Achilles and Agamemnon, so that straight away you know it's not a linear, one-type of story. There will be a collision for all kinds of plot points.

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