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Troy, The Director's Cut Review

Thanks to Toastie for finding this.

Wolfgang Petersen introduces the director's cut of his 2004 film Troy, which tells the story of the dramatic siege of the walled Trojan city by the vast Grecian army. On the Grecian side, we’ve got the gruff, body-hair-free, awesomely-chiseled Achilles, led by the megalomaniacal and bloodthirsty Agamemnon; on the Trojan side, we’ve got the brave, body-hair-full, decently-chiseled Hector, led by the nice but easily-influenced King Priam. A nancy-boy Trojan prince named Paris runs off with a Grecian king’s wife, giving Agamemnon a great excuse to start a war between the two nations. What follows is Homer’s classic tale of wife-stealing, revenge-taking, face-spearing, and horse-gifting.

There’s little doubt that Troy was one of the most talked about films of 2004. It was a loud, bright, noisy epic that drew applause for its detailed, lavish production, as well as criticism for poorly developed characters, historical inaccuracies, and some spotty acting. I’m firmly in the camp that found it a highly entertaining yet flawed “battle film” much on par with Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. It was an amusement park ride first, and a historical drama second, which is absolutely fine- not all historical dramas need to be I, Claudius in order to work. Petersen’s Troy clearly emphasizes fun over subtlety, as evidenced by its broad character strokes, spectacular sets, and violent battles; while there will be many who see it as a lost opportunity, few can dispute that it’s a very entertaining film with a lot of energy. It wasn’t something that I ever wanted to revisit, but if I ever found it playing on television, I’d probably hover around that channel like a vulture while looking for something better.


Wolfgang’s revisitation of this film is a great example of DVD done right. Many of us suspected that there was a better movie lurking within the one that played to theaters in 2004, and we were right; while the director’s cut doesn’t fix all of the problems of the theatrical cut (Orlando Bloom is still in it), it makes the film more interesting, brutal, colorful, and dramatic.


Existing characters are expanded and new ones are introduced, giving us a better and perhaps more accurate vision of Homer’s ancient poem-come-to-life. Sean Bean’s Odysseus goes from near-background to near-foreground, as the director’s cut gives him several brand new scenes in which to shine. We watch Agamemnon’s emissaries attempt to convince the Ithacan king to join him in battle, giving Petersen a chance to show us the friendly, funny side of Odysseus. It adds a much needed element of warmth to the Grecian half of the story, letting us relate even better to Achilles and his comrades. It’s great that Troy isn’t a tale about good versus evil; the Grecian army isn’t a vast, faceless horde of monsters, and although Agamemnon is still the clear villain of the piece, Odysseus’ presence helps balance out the story and lets us empathize with the invading Greeks. That Sean Bean is a much better actor than Bloom, Bana, or Pitt doesn’t hurt, either.


Also given an expanded role is Tyler Mane’s Ajax, who has this new, terribly delivered line at the beginning of the second act as he watches Achilles storm the Trojan beach with his Myrmidons:




Yep. That should have stayed on the cutting room floor, but what can you do. Mane’s role is only slightly expanded, with the primary benefit being that his battle with Hector is more important and dramatic. I’m glad that Ajax has a bigger role, as it brings his character more into line with Homer’s poem, but I just wish they’d cut that line. It’s so bad that it’s distracting.

There are additional scenes with Paris and Helen, and Bana’s relationship to his brother is better depicted, too. Our attachment to Bana’s Hector makes his defeat at the hands of Achilles even more poignant, and adds a new bit of tragic depth to Troy. Most of these scenes are fairly seamless, and will go unnoticed unless you’ve got a great memory, or are playing the theatrical version side-by-side (and if you are playing it side-by-side, I’m sorry, but you’re a jerk).


One of the biggest improvements to this cut is the re-mastered, re-edited score. If you were like me, you loathed Troy’s workmanlike-at-best, temp-quality-at-worst score. There were some synthesized cues in the theatrical version that sounded like they were recorded on my little sister’s Casio. Luckily, this version fixes most of the glaring score problems from the theatrical cut. If you’re a fan of film music, you’ll probably notice track snippets from other films, most notably during the climactic Achilles/Hector fight, where Elfman’s Planet of the Apes theme is used to powerful effect. I’m glad someone found a good use for that score, since Apes was a terrible, useless film (although Ape Lincoln will always bring a smile to my face). Also of note is the enhanced and more vibrant color palette. The water seems bluer, the sand seems sandier, and the blood looks redder.


The other major, noticeable difference is how much gorier the battles are. Chunks of flesh and bits of organ fly wildly from spears and swords. It’s a little like watching a Gwar beach concert. The violence is much more brutal, and in some spots it even feels over-the-top, although the historical, almost storybook-ish setting goes a long way to distance the viewer from the brutality. It won’t turn your stomach, but it’s much more violent than the theatrical cut.

All in Troy is not well, however. Paris is still an annoying, weasel-y presence, and is weakly portrayed by Bloom. Pitt’s Achilles still mutters and shouts in a strange, jarring monotone, but his physical presence works well, even though his acting doesn’t. For me, Pitt and Bloom were Troy’s unfixable problems- if you couldn’t live with them then, you won’t be able to live with them now.


The theatrical version was like a beautiful but slightly poo-stained jigsaw puzzle with several pieces missing. The director’s cut fills in most of the missing pieces, and even manages to wipe off some of the poo. If you enjoyed the theatrical cut, I’d whole-heartedly recommend the director’s cut, as it’s far more than just another double dip. If you didn’t like Troy because of the "historical" Homeric inaccuracies or because of the Bloom/Pitt acting, you’ll probably like this one a bit more. If anything, the director’s cut of Troy makes me appreciate DVD’s ability to bring an artist’s true vision to viewers.

It's a very well-stacked DVD- there's a rich assortment of documentaries, my favorite being In the Thick of Battle, which details the stunt work and training needed to get the battle scenes from script to set. There's an entire evening's worth of stuff here, and it's nearly all great. The picture and sound are stellar. The colors are rich and deep, and the Dolby track is near-perfect. Arrows and sword slashings, especially during the Hector/Achilles fight, are brought to vivid life thanks to excellent sound editing and remastering. The box art is a sprinting Pitt, which is actually a bit of a letdown. It isn't creative, colorful, or interesting. Still, Pitt looks quite scary, which is a feat in and of itself.

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Sean Bean: Troy story

This is a great interview on Troy, ftom the Independent, May 2004.  

Sean Bean stars opposite Brad Pitt in Hollywood's new $200m swords-and-sandals epic. Not bad, says Deborah Ross, for a man who couldn't cut it on the cheese counter at M&S
Published: 15 May 2004
Meet Sean Bean at a London hotel. I arrive first, light up, then he arrives, and lights up, but that's OK because, come the weekend, he's off to see Allen Carr, the give-up-smoking man - that's the GIVE-UP-SMOKING MAN for those of you who have read his books and know Mr Carr repeats everything in capitals - and "I've spoken to 'im and 'e says carry on, like, for now. No point torturing yourself."

Meet Sean Bean at a London hotel. I arrive first, light up, then he arrives, and lights up, but that's OK because, come the weekend, he's off to see Allen Carr, the give-up-smoking man - that's the GIVE-UP-SMOKING MAN for those of you who have read his books and know Mr Carr repeats everything in capitals - and "I've spoken to 'im and 'e says carry on, like, for now. No point torturing yourself."

I say the trouble with becoming a non-smoker is that you no longer get to hang out with smokers and, as every smoker knows, smokers are a lot more fun than non-smokers. "It's true, that," he says. "I used to travel from London to Sheffield quite a lot when I was a student and I always found that in the smoking carriage there was a lot of chatter and laughter. It was quite dull in the other carriages."

I further point out that smokers are less likely to know what things like endowment mortgages actually are, which seems like a good thing to me. "Absolutely," he agrees. "That's one of the words you hear so often but have no interest whatsoever in finding out what it means." Rather like the offside rule? Of course, Sean being a crazed Sheffield United fan with, even, "100% Blade" tattooed up one arm, I say this purely to torment him (tee-hee, not that I do understand the rule). He then, naturally, does what all men do in these instances, which is try to explain it with whatever props are to hand. In this case, it is coffee cups.

"Now, what 'appens is ..." he says, rearranging the cups on the table between us.

"Oh, pur-lease," I say. "I can feel my brain closing down already. Going into a coma, going into a coma ... impending coma alert ... shoulders slumping, eyes closing ..." "You don't want to know?"


"Fair enough," he says.

I hope this won't drive a wedge between us, though. I'm already quite taken with him.

Dishy? not conventionally, not in the usual Hollywood way, and his hair-do does teeter dangerously on the brink of mullet-hood, which is never especially classy in a man. But he does have something. Certainly, lots of ladies think so, judging by the number of adoration-proclaiming fan websites out there where messages are posted every time he puts his socks on. Spooky? "It's a bit strange, yeah, but I'm not familiar with computers and I've no wish to go to websites and have a look at what is going on with me. I suppose if you thought about it, it could make you feel a bit shaky." Do you see yourself as a bit of a dish? "Not really. I'm not complaining about it but it's not something I would describe myself as."

What does he have? I think it might be a sex thing. Pure and simple. "He's lovely and hairy and a bit rough," says a colleague. Good in bed, then? "He looks like he should be." She does not think, if it came to it, that she'd put out an impending coma alert. On the other hand, if he got too Mellorsy - "we come off together that time, m'lady" - she might have to have a word. Ladies first, after all.

Anyway, we are here, ostensibly, to talk about Troy, the mega Hollywood, $200m blockbuster based on Homer's epic poem, The Iliad, in which Sean plays Odysseus, who also has a hair-do dangerously teetering on mullet-hood. (Strange how some hairstyles don't change even after thousands of years.) Sean is great in it. And looks cracking - take note, girls! - in leather skirt thingy and sandals. Did you get to keep the outfit, Sean? "No. Just the Greek helmet which I've got on me sideboard." It was a wonderful film to make and, yes, he liked Brad Pitt - "very down to earth; not a prima donna at all" - and it was a joy to work with Peter O'Toole, one of his all-time heroes. "First time I met him he was in a robe with a cigarette holder and he said, 'Sean, how are you, dear boy?' He was just how I imagined him to be. It was a great moment."

Did you explain the offside rule to him, with swords and breastplates? "Didn't need to. We talked mostly 'bout cricket. Yorkshire cricket." Sean's a big fan of the old-school stars: Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Robert Stephens. "They lived life on their terms, and why not? There are no rules saying you have to do this and you have to do that. They did it on their own terms and had a great time doing it." Anyone left like that, apart from O'Toole? "John Hurt. Really fabulous actor. He's got that wonderful quality. That elegance, charm, humour, wit and passion. All those qualities combined. "

I'd sort of expected Sean to be bloody hard work. Previous interviews have indicated he is a reluctant subject, to say the least, and curiously passionless. "A few years ago I was very averse to publicity and perhaps too proud and reclusive and I weren't doing anyone any f good, including meself. I understand now there is a reason to do it and it can be positive. I'm much more comfortable with it now." He says he's never been at ease with the whole celebrity shebang. "I know it's a clich¿ but it's the work that I do and the parts that I play that I enjoy rather than the fame or anything." Has your head ever been turned? "Yeah, yeah. There are times when it's all very pleasant. You get looked after with cars and limos and nice hotels. You do become very mollycoddled and you are tempted to believe ... I don't know ... that you are someone other than yourself. I think everyone's head is slightly turned by it." Best bit of mollycoddling? "Um ... toiletries. You get a lot of toiletries. It's a courtesy thing." I assume we are not talking big tubs of E45. "No," he confirms, "we're not."

I don't think he is passionless, but it can be tricky getting him going. He is understandably keen to keep his private life (three marriages; three divorces; three daughters) private. I ask only if he regrets not being better at being married. "Not really, no," he says, "I thought I was all right." And he doesn't really have a public life, never appearing in Heat or party snapshots or the like. Plus - and this is a big plus, I think - he just isn't into self-analysis. As an actor, he just sort of goes and does it, which, I should add, doesn't make him any less of an actor.

His big breakthrough role was as Sharpe in the TV adaptations of the Bernard Cornwell novels, and Cornwell is huge fan. "I don't think Sean was how I'd imagined my Sharpe," he says, "but the moment I saw him on screen I found him utterly convincing. I now have him in mind as I write the books. He's a very powerful actor." He adds that when Sean played Macbeth in the West End last year, "I went twice, because it was just such a stunning performance." So not just a tattooed tough nut from the terraces, as sometimes assumed. A chauvinist, though? Did you really once remark that a woman's place is in the home? "I didn't really say that. I just said something about most women wanting to be at home when they have a baby, and it got interpreted as me saying women should be in the kitchen doing chops." Or hotpot? Sometimes a woman can get bored of only doing chops, you know. "Or 'otpot," he concedes.

Sean Bean was born in Sheffield, son of a steelplater dad and secretary mum. Earliest memory? "I suppose my house in Sheffield. Me dad walking down the road after work. Waiting for him at the gate. That's still vivid for me." As a Seventies schoolboy, was it a Chopper or a Chipper? "A Chopper. I got one for Christmas. Big leather seat. Wing mirrors. It were orange but I wound black tape all over the frame because you had to customise them." I say his family must live in a constant state of astonishment at the way things have turned out for him. He says they do, but he doesn't. Come on, Sean. You once worked for your dad's steelplating business and now here you are, being showered with limos and toiletries that aren't E45, and going on set with Brad and Peter and Orlando (Bloom). Don't you ever think: bloody hell! "Yeah. You do look around and there are some quite big names, but I don't tend to be phased by that." Perhaps they are thinking: bloody hell, Sean Bean! "Yeah."

He never got his head down at school, just wasn't interested. "I can hardly remember anything about it. I didn't really start reading until I'd left school when I was 17 when I just had this real hunger for literature." What blew your socks off? "Oscar Wilde. Loved reading his work. Still do. And that led to other things - plays, philosophers, Nietzsche, Homer. I didn't realise there was such a world." He could, post-school, have had a career in cheese, but seriously mucked up. "I got a job in M&S, Sheffield, on the cheese counter. I lasted for about four hours on a Wednesday morning. It were in the basement. Big lumps of cheese. Really unpleasant smell. Used to wear a white coat and white paper hat. Stayed till dinner time, had me dinner, then got on the bus and went home. I just felt an idiot, walking round in this paper 'at." Sean, call yourself an actor? Couldn't you at least have acted like someone interested in cheese? "Cheese, cheese, smell my lovely cheese ..." That's the ticket. "That's Alan Partridge." Oh, you nearly had me convinced. I was about to order a half pound.

He also tried art college "I didn't go for very long. I went for a day." Well, your life in art, at least, lasted twice as long as your life in cheese. "After my life in cheese," he says, beginning over, "I went to one art college but then went to another one in Rotherham." What was wrong with the first one? "It weren't what I thought it would be. There was a lot of posing going on and I felt a little bit uncomfortable with it. I thought people were being a bit pretentious, but I suppose they would be as art students, wouldn't they?" He thought he would be a painter, was a painter, even sold a few of his paintings - "figurative, but influenced by all the surrealists" - but two weeks (a record!) into the second art college he happened upon the drama course. "I was looking though the door and I saw people acting and I thought maybe I should try this."

Why? Why did you think you should try it? What was it in you? I mean, presumably you'd seen people mend cars or whatever but you never thought: I should try becoming a mechanic. "I used to like flamboyant artists like David Bowie and Iggy Pop and all that. I found their theatricality exciting, but couldn't think of a way of doing that meself. I was doing everything. I was painting, writing poetry, learning piano, learning French ... and acting seemed to combine everything. It just seemed to solidify everything. And once I'd switched from art to drama that was it." Did you ever doubt you could act? "No." Ever regret what could have been re: cheese? "No."

Eventually, he applied to Rada and was accepted. He remembers getting the letter. "I knew it was from Rada because it had the stamp on it. I took it up to my bedroom. It was quite a big moment when I opened it and it said: 'We are pleased to accept you ...' I were totally overjoyed. I ran down the road to my girlfriend of the time - she lived about 300 yards away - and knocked at her door and said: 'I've got in, I've got in!'" A Billy Elliot moment? "The best moment." He has largely played rough types, angry types, warrior types like Boromir in Lord of the Rings, and I wonder if he ever longs to play, say, a sensitive poet. "Why would I?" Why wouldn't you? "What did you say?" Sensitive poet. "Oh, I thought you said 'Jasper Carrot'." Well, you could play him too, if you like. "I would. If it's a good script, and the character has potential, I'll play anything."

He lives in Belsize Park, north London, and seems happy enough. He sees a lot of his daughters and is fond of his garden. "I like gardening and it's a great time of year. Everything is coming to leaf. I gained an interest when I was quite young and I watch Gardeners' World." What's the last thing you planted? "A rose," he says, "I planted a rose." He is not without tenderness. Roses are nice, we agree. We'll smoke to that. Or, for Allen Carr readers: WE'LL SMOKE TO THAT.



Troy, director's Cut

Thanks to SeansRose these caps. Click to enlarge.


In ancient Greece, the passion of two of history’s most legendary lovers, Paris, Prince of Troy (Bloom) and Helen (Kruger), Queen of Sparta, ignites a war that will devastate a civilization. When Paris steals Helen away from her husband, King Menelaus (Gleeson), it is an insult that cannot be suffered. Familial pride dictates that an affront to Menelaus is an affront to his brother Agamemnon (Cox), powerful King of the Myceneans, who soon unites all the massive tribes of Greece to steal Helen back from Troy in defense of his brother’s honor.

In truth, Agamemnon’s pursuit of honor is corrupted by his overwhelming greed – he needs control of Troy to ensure the supremacy of his already vast empire. The walled city, under the leadership of King Prium (O'Toole) and defended by mighty Prince Hector (Bana), is a citadel that no army has been able to breach. One man alone stands as the key to victory or defeat over Troy – Achilles (Pitt), believed to be the greatest warrior alive.

Arrogant, rebellious and seemingly invincible, Achilles has no allegiance to anyone or anything, save his own glory. It is his insatiable hunger for eternal renown that leads him to attack the gates of Troy under Agamemnon’s banner – but it will be love that ultimately decides his fate.

Two worlds will go to war for honor and power. Thousands will fall in pursuit of glory. And for love, a nation will burn to the ground.


"On set pictures," thanks to Laura !




World Stunt Awards

Sean Bean

Sean Bean on training for roles in 'Troy' and 'The Lord of the Rings'

You've just completed one of the most physical films in years, playing Odysseus in "Troy." Did you prepare for it endlessly?

SB: I was doing a play in the West End (of London), so I didn't have a great deal of time to prepare. I did a little bit of training in London, and once we got to Malta we had all these facilities that the production company provided, trainers and everything. They wanted everybody to look good because we were all supposed to be playing Greek warriors. Then I did a lot of preparation with Simon Crane, the stunt coordinator (and 2nd unit director).

Were you in the gym every day?

SB: That's counter-productive after a while, in terms of putting muscle on, so I just went in about three times a week. I had this wonderful woman, Eunice Huthart, and she's a Liverpudlian (from Liverpool, England) and she's an amazing stunt woman, but she is also a very good trainer. She was a tremendous help in getting me fit. Basically we did a bit of the cardiovascular, then a few weights, and we got quite a regular routine and by the end I was really enjoying it. I wasn't really into it at first, but we formed a good friendship. She pushed us to do more, and it was very enjoyable at the same time. If you can have a laugh and a joke with the stunt men and trainers, that makes a big difference. Sometimes I trained with Brian Cox (who plays Agamemnon). But we didn't have a great deal of time. We'd spend most of our time watching these Bulgarian stunt guys diving into the sea and almost breaking their necks - they're just pretty crazy!

How hard was the filming?

SB: There were a lot of fights, and we got a few knocks and bruises, but these fights were really well rehearsed and Simon was quite clear about that. Toward the end, there was quite a complicated sequence, part of a montage where the walls of Troy are falling down, and we are lighting fires and pillaging, and a statue had to fall at the same time as a fireball erupted and horses run through and we're battling our way to the other end of the set. That took a long time to set up, and we knew each time it didn't work they had to put out the fires, put the statue back, re-dress it all. It was our big number and we were running out of time, and an hour later there'd be lorries (trucks) coming to remove the set! Simon was in charge - he was under pressure, as we all were, to get this sequence. And he got it, and there was like this jubilation! We had one last take, and that was it! And we got it and it was a great feeling - and it's great in the film.

The actors did most of the fighting themselves. How much of a back-up team of stunt men was there?

SB: We always had people around us. If it was a particularly difficult moment, Simon would make sure that there were quite experienced guys around you. It wouldn't matter so much in the background, but around the action you wanted people who knew what they were doing, so you felt secure and confident.

Did you do much weapons training?

SB: Yes, we did that. As soon as we got there, if we weren't working, we'd spend two or three hours training with those swords and shields. We'd do three hours in the morning. Shields are not that heavy, but they can be after three hours! It's very intrinsic to the whole thing. They were so much a part of the way they (the Greeks and Trojans) fought, that it was almost like an extra appendage.

Had you ever fought with shields before?

SB: I fought with shields in 'Lord of the Rings,' but not as much as in 'Troy,' where it was very much part of everyone's style of fighting - and the swords were not very long, only about a foot-and-a-half, like daggers. They weren't broadswords, they were quite vicious in a way.

Did you train as much for 'Lord of the Rings'?

SB: That was a similar situation. When we got to New Zealand, we were fighting with Bob Anderson, this old stunt guy, who was great and who trained Errol Flynn, and we had some good guys on that, like George Marshall Ruge. In the end, the sequence where I get killed, we trained for that for about seven or eight months, from day one. We were with the stunt guys in this sort of army barracks and we had to do a couple of hours of fighting three or four times a week and just create this fight and then modify it and polish it, so by the time we came to film, we didn't waste any time trying to get the moves right. I remember when we did, you've got people coming at you from every angle and there's a lot of twisting and turning and spinning, and here the weapons were heavy, they were quite heavy swords, and so that was quite tough. And the conditions were difficult. It was quite flat in 'Troy,' but in 'Lord of the Rings' we were in an ancient forest and it wasn't that firm underneath and you could easily trip.

How do you make sure you don't?

SB: It's just concentration. And that's one thing I've learned to value: Concentration. Even so, I got a few knocks on the hand, and a bit of a clunk on my thumb.
But I have been lucky. I have never had an experience where I felt anything other than really secure and very confident with the stunt men. They can make or break a film - especially on 'Troy.' They had more than 50 on that who were really good, then others on the periphery with some experience, and toward the back lines the ordinary people. The stunt men are the heart and soul of these epics.

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