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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Achilles battles the flu


As the price of making grandiose blockbusters creeps ever higher, so does the need to secure big openings in every market. In the case of "Troy" -- one of the most expensive films ever made, weighing in at around $175 million -- this is particularly true. Thus, when Brad Pitt sneezes, Warner Bros. catches a cold. That explains the panic surrounding Pitt's no-show at the film's Tokyo press conference due to "stomach flu." The show started without him, but mighty Achilles finally turned up, about two hours late, looking a little pale but thanking the doctor who "patched him up." Perhaps he got one of those infamous "vitamin shots" that Japanese docs love; he certainly looked as genki as Eric Bana or the rest of the cast as he joked with the audience and took questions.

News photo
Brad Pitt and director Wolfgang Petersen at a news conference Monday to promote "Troy"

On his choice of roles and work philosophy

Brad Pitt: I have been interested lately in these more iconic characters that represent more universal themes. At the same time, usually, whatever I've just finished, I want to go in the opposite direction. Whether that's an attribute or a fault of mine, I always want to go in the opposite direction of where I've been. . . . I'm looking for extremes, and contrast. I've found I've been happiest when I'm making something. It's that simple for me.

There's an architect I'm really fond of, Frank Gehry, he's done some really amazing buildings around the world. He's blown the lid off the box, it's the future. And he said to me once, "If you know where it's going, then it's not worth doing." I've found that to be very true, this idea of discovery and exploration. When you go back and try to repeat something that you know works, or copy someone else . . . I find it to be a dead end.

On the film's duel between Hector and Achilles

Eric Bana: I was very, very lucky to have Brad to work with on this movie, in particular that fight. What that required, ideally, was someone who was not only a great actor, but a great athlete. Looking back, it was a benefit that we got along well because at the beginning of that fight we just decided to really go for it, and not be offended by hitting each other or hurting each other, and we wouldn't hold any grudges. So we hit each other quite a lot, which I think was necessary to make it look as good as it did. It was just the most spectacular thing to perform.

B.P.: We started developing it from the friezes you find on the Greek urns. First of all, [director] Wolfgang [Petersen] wanted to make sure that Eric and I could do it ourselves, so we could move away from the current MTV style of cutting, chop-chop-insert. Back off a little more. Then you could really believe you were watching a fight; you see Eric and I doing it. But then he brought in Simon Crane, who was responsible for the war scenes in "Saving Private Ryan" and "Braveheart," and his boys created the fight for us and just told us what to do. But I'm most pleased with it. There's nothing superfluous; everything's either a kill-shot or a block. We worked very hard on the fight, and it seems to be in the vein of the great Hollywood showdowns, and it was a pleasure to do with Bana, even though I clipped him a few times in the face . . . accidentally. But he made me pay for it, so I think we evened out.

On whether, like Achilles, he's seeking fame and immortality as an actor

B.P.: I can certainly see the parallels. There's no denying them. Me, myself, that's not why I was drawn to films. I don't think that's why people get into films, I don't know. But it seems to me, if the obsession is to leave some sort of mark, to leave a monument to yourself, instead of setting out to discover something, or make something for yourself and inspire that way, it seems to me you've got a big ol' fear of death there. It certainly was true of Achilles that he was running from this idea of oblivion, and certainly consumed by these questions of does his life have purpose, does it have meaning, what's it all gonna add up to in the end.

On the film's contemporary relevance

Wolfgang Petersen: I think we all realized, while working on the film, how amazingly this 3,000-year-old story reflects upon our current events. Nothing has changed. Homer described a world about how we are, how we deal with each other, what our passions, our longings, our loves are. And at the same time, our longing to destroy our world, and ourselves. The tragedy of mankind is established right there, and it's so amazingly close to what we have right now. You see Troy burning, and nothing is won by it, everything is lost, it doesn't make any sense, nobody wins anything. And you look at what's happening right now, a war that just happened, things are burning in chaos, nobody wins anything, just everybody loses. It's the same story.

On the feeling of completing the film

W.P.: When I got the first draft of David's script, I knew if this works out . . . At first I wasn't sure, because it was so big, I wasn't sure that a studio would really go for it. When they did, I knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime for a filmmaker. It only comes once and never again. And I still see it and think about it like that.

On wearing skirts

E.B.: Very comfortable. You get used to it very quickly. I remember joking with Brad and Orlando about the skirts, but the girls seemed to love them; they gave us compliments every day. It gave us a lot of confidence. So I think after the first week, the three of us were walking very, very tall in our skirts. [Loud cackle from Petersen.]



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