It was fifteen years ago today that Troy, Warner Bros.’ big blockbuster movie about the Iliad, came out in the theater. Director Wolfgang Petersen, nominated for an Oscar for his work on Das Boot, made the movie with a budget of $110.5 million. Game of Thrones co-creator David Benioff wrote the script. Troy made $497.4 million worldwide, even though it didn’t get a good reception and people said it didn’t follow Homer’s original text very closely. In filmmaking, Petersen pulled off a considerable feat: he shot on location in Malta and Cabo San Lucas with a few of the biggest stars in the business, a ton of extras, and the paparazzi, who took a picture of Brad Pitt talking on the phone while dressed as an ancient Greek.
Why is it so famous?
There were many good things about the movie Troy that critics didn’t notice. These included great performances by Peter O’Toole and Eric Bana, exciting action scenes, and many actors who looked great. In some ways, the movie feels like a precursor to Game of Thrones. It was the first time that Benioff tried to translate a fanciful story with high-stakes politics and devastating deaths into a real-world story. Bean and James Cosmo, who played Troy, star in the HBO movie. Besides that, it’s a good look at how hard it is to make a big-budget Hollywood movie, especially with stars at the top of their game.
With Petersen, Warner Bros.’s go-to guy for huge movies like The Perfect Storm, the movie almost didn’t happen because of that. Bruce Wayne vs. Superman was on his mind at the time. Having seen Petersen in action in a few of his short films, then-studio head Alan Horn was excited to see what he could do with a superhero storyline. After meeting Benioff, Petersen started talking to him. Benioff had only made one other movie before, the Spike Lee-directed 25th Hour. When Petersen was thinking about which movie to watch, there were two: the well-received Batman v Superman and Christopher Nolan’s Troy, which was still unknown. He had to choose one or the other.
A few years ago, Petersen told Vanity Fair that “nobody truly knew him at that time.” (Even though Memento helped start Nolan’s career.) Even though it sounds like a joke now, there was a lot of doubt about whether Christopher Nolan or Lars von Trier would be better at making Troy. So, Petersen chose Troy, and Warner Bros. put off Batman v Superman in favor of a new Batman movie from Christopher Nolan called Batman Begins, which Nolan made.
In the beginning, Petersen didn’t know what to say about him. He was “amazed.” With Petersen in the same restaurant, Pitt and Petersen talked about the role of Achilles, the golden warrior who leads Troy’s army in a long battle against them. A beard and long, dark hair had grown on Pitt’s face, and he had lost weight in preparation for a movie that never came out. He didn’t look like that when I told him. “Jesus Christ,” he said. Pitt was empathetic to the man’s fears. By the time the movie was ready to be made, he told Petersen that he would once again look like the Hollywood version of Achilles, like in the movie (read: buff and blond). He worked very hard to lose his beard for the next six months and look like a Greek god.
Actors Eric Bana and Bloom and Bean, who played Paris and Odysseus, were also cast. Rose Byrne was a newcomer when she played Briseis, the Trojan woman who becomes Achilles’ slave before becoming his lover. Petersen says that Keira Knightley also tried out for the job, but she didn’t get it. No one knew what to expect when they cast Helen, the mythical beauty who started the Trojan War, so they didn’t know what to expect. At the time, Nicole Kidman was a big hit for the company because she was so beautiful.