Troy - Press Archive - CHUD Script Review


Source: CHUD
14 April 2003

By Nick Nunziata
So we aren't going to see Gates of Fire anytime soon, but the explosion
of big armor and sandal epics is firmly in place starting with Troy. The film
is set to debut in 2004 with an amazing cast, a massive budget, and the
assured directorial hand of Wolfgang Petersen (who wisely dropped the
doomed Superman/Batman project to do this). Additionally, the writing
duties are being handled by Michael Tabb and CHUD favorite David
(25th Hour) Benioff. All in all, it's a project that looks to be equal to
Gladiator in scope and depth if not superior. Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Brian
Cox, Orlando Bloom, Saffron Burrows, Sean Bean, Brendan Gleeson,
and Peter O'Toole is a cast most directors would go apeshit over, so the
stage is set.
 
The script I read is not the final draft, but the second draft written by
Benioff in late 2002 and carries the Pitt/Bloom/Petersen names on the
cover, which would indicate that the draft was at least far enough along
to have lured the main leads. At 149 pages, it's a fairly long script but
for that length I can't remember one that's been as blazingly fast to
read.
 
What is Troy?
Here's a succinct description from IMDB:
"In the year 1193 B.C., Paris, a prince of Troy stole Helen, Queen of Sparta,
away from her husband, Menelaus, setting the kingdoms of Mycenaean
Greece at war with Troy. The Greeks began a bloody siege at Troy that
lasted over ten years. Achilles was the greatest hero among the Greeks,
while Hector, the eldest son of Priam, King of Troy, embodied the hopes
of the people of his city."
 
The great thing about Troy as a concept is how amazingly easy to get
into it is. Names like Achilles, Sparta, Agamemnon, Helen, Hector, Priam
all register in minds and while their place in lore may be foggy, they carry
a familiarity that names like Maximus doesn't. The stories and characters
are familiar and add an air of legitimacy to the film and the luscious cast
makes it something that would have to be really handled poorly to not be
compelling, let alone epic. Thankfully, this draft erases any fears I had and
makes it right up there with anything else 2004 has to offer as must-see
material.
 
Beginning right in the middle of a huge battle between the Mycenean
army and the Thessalonian army, the story shows off its class and coolness
from the opening shots of a dead soldier and then the eight thousand
soldiers about to wage battle. The former army is commanded by power
hungry Agamemnon (to be played by ubiquitous Brian Cox), who allows the
weaker army the chance of avoiding another wave of bloodshed by allowing
each group's best warrior to take each other on for victory. When the
Thessalonian King Triopas offers forth a huge, scarred, seemingly
unbeatable warrior, the Mycenean counters with his own legendary battler...
Achilles.
 
Except, he's nowhere to be found.
 
This is what's cool about Troy. It's not about good guys and bad guys.
It's about varying shades of honor, skill, and maturity.
 
Brad Pitt is Achilles, the bronze-plated swordsman who's never been bested
in battle. When sent for, we see that Achilles is in his tent with his
woman instead of on the battlefield where he's needed. He's a rock star,
only a few thousand years early.
 
Confident, vain, but definitely a warrior without equal, Achilles is a man
only concerned with being remembered throughout the ages. His loyalty
fluctuates, his reliability wavers, and he has no love for hierarchy. He fights
for himself and only cares for his student and the women he chooses.
Everything else is periphery. Of course, he does arrive to battle the
Thessalonian stomper. Of course, he does live to see another day, for
he is Brad Pitt and his name lives above the title.
 
Here's the thing, though. He's not the hero nor the villain. In fact, while
some of the characters are painted more dastardly than others, I feel the
biggest strength of Troy is how it's rife with rich characters of varying
shades of gray instead of having a hero and a villain and all else there
just to propel the story. Achilles is vain and distracted by fame, but still
a great warrior who shows where he draws the line. It's a good role for
Pitt, one which he'll have to really deliver in to be convincing as a guy
who can best muscular hulks convincingly, but one that'll be greatly
helped by his considerable charisma.
 
The real hero of the film is Hector (Eric Bana). While not as well
remembered as Achilles (which is obvious why if you read the stuff by
Homer or scholars), he represents the stoic and driven leader of men
a big story like this needs.
 
Noble, cunning, and as strong a family man as he is a warrior, Hector's
the kind of role that'll do more for Eric Bana than The Hulk or Chopper
ever could aspire to. It's the kind of part that makes careers.
 
If they handle the meat of the story well and juggle the high profile cast
and their characters well, this could be a film that sets a new precedent.
Where Gladiator was terrific but focal on one or two characters, this should
really embody the old fashioned "epic" feel in terms of characters (at least
6 major roles), scope (a handful of huge battles), and size (this needs to
run 3 hours). This is a better story than the Russell Crowe favorite. It's
better in most every way (though I'd take Ridley Scott over most any
other director). For all intents and purposes, Troy should emerge at the
top of a very prestigious heap if Benioff's script is indeed the template
for the film. Bana stands to gain the most, as his character is the one
that is written and conceived to be the most heroic.
 
With Hector and Achilles are flawed, but equally compelling characters,
the scenery is rife with plum roles and characters who aren't the
typical underwritten supporting roles.
 
In Paris, Orlando Bloom has a role that is light years away from his
Legolas character. The younger, impulse driven prince (and younger
brother to Hector) is a role that on the page is one that'll require tons
of charisma as well as a considerable amount of humbleness as Paris
is not the legendary warrior Achilles or his brother Hector is. Of course,
it'd take an actor like Bloom to pull off landing the most beautiful
queen of all (the face that launched 1,000 ships), and it's plainly
obvious that Paris is a role that requires more beauty than brawn.
As written, it's a meaty role and once again while Paris jumpstarts
the war with his passion, he's not a villain. Even the least likable
characters all have obvious motives, with Agamemnon having the most
darkness towards qualifying as a villain.
 
Additionally, Gleeson's role of Spartan king Menelaus is considerably
meaty, and the theft of his wife certainly makes good dramatic sense
for launching an assault. His interplay with Brian Cox should make for
some grand, Shakespearean moments and while they serve as two of the
shadier characters in the script, they are but catalysts.
 
Seeing Sean Bean as Odysseus will be a joy, as the character seems to
be a nice mentor to Achilles in some respects and the actor is finally
starting to get his due respect. Peter O'Toole as Trojan king Priam...
well, we'll see if he can pull it off.
 
Overall, it's loaded with great stuff, cool battles, and some huge
opportunities to to showcase all that makes films like Spartacus, Ben-Hur,
and even The Lord of the Rings so memorable. Huge scale battles,
ageless themes, and the kind of tragedy that makes these works endure.
 
Everything is in place for Troy to be unforgettable. I've done my best not
to reveal anything about the details of the plot, except to say that I loved
it and am dying to see it. More info as tangible stuff surfaces.
 

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