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Brad Pitt Gives Classic Greek Story Modern Twist in <i>Troy</i> - 2004-05-19

The Iliad, the classic work by the ancient Greek poet Homer, gets the Hollywood treatment in an epic film starring Brad Pitt and Eric Bana. Alan Silverman has a look at Troy.

It is not love of country nor love of king that drives the mighty Achilles.

The greatest warrior of his time, 3,000 years ago, fights on the side of the Greek king Agamemnon in a war against the walled city of Troy and its forces led by Trojan prince Hector.

What sparks this epic confrontation is not Agamemnon's determination to rule the world - although it certainly does serve those ambitions; it is jealousy over a woman when Helen, the beautiful bride of Menelaus, the king of Sparta, and Agamemnon's brother, is wooed away by the Trojan Paris, the beautiful younger brother of prince Hector.

The film takes great liberties with the writings of Homer, but Australian actor Eric Bana, who co-stars as Hector, believes the ancient tale remains relevant.

"These characters and this story can be laid over every period of time and every battle that has ever been fought and it bears relevance," he said. "That is why it has lasted so long; and I think we can all identify with all the characters in there. Unfortunately, as Agamemnon says in the story, 'we only remember the kings, we don't remember the soldiers.' I think that's a really wonderful line and through this film we get to follow the journey of Hector and Achilles and see what they give up in their journey, which is really kind of cool. They become the heroes, not the kings."

Brad Pitt plays Achilles as a glory-seeking egotist, determined that his name be remembered for thousands of years. "He was very skilled at what he does, but Achilles is running to try to discover himself in some way;" says Pitt, "and there is a really telling line in the script where he says 'I want what all men want. I just want it more.'

Ultimately the message is 'the tragedy of war.' That is certainly one of the themes in the Iliad and in our film here," he adds. " There is so much research [which was great to read going in] and many scholars . . . all kind of hit this point that Homer was trying to erase this line of 'my side against your side' and trying to adopt a greater humanity in a world of warring factions. You look at it and it doesn't seem like so much has changed. I don't know if that's us projecting our current state of the world onto the story or that is truly what he was trying to say."

Troy is directed by German-born Wolfgang Peterson, whose landmark 1981 film Das Boot - about the crew of a World War II German submarine - set a new standard for depicting the effect waging war has on the warriors.

"As I said when I did Das Boot and tried to do it in a realistic way, I think every film that deals with war is, by its very nature, an anti-war film because it is just horrible what happens and it is a tragedy," Peterson says. "It is just what it is. Are there parallels to today? I think it is not very difficult to look around and see what happens these days. The world has not changed that much at all. I think that is what's so fascinating about the Iliad. This is the earliest great dramatic work of western literature and it still has an incredibly modern and contemporary feel to it because Homer knew about what makes people tick."

The international cast of Troy also features Irish-born veteran Peter O'Toole as Trojan king Priam. German-born Diane Kruger is Helen, the face that launched 1,000 ships; and English actor Orlando Bloom of Lord Of The Rings and Pirates Of The Caribbean fame, is the passionate young Paris.