Troy: Bloody Innovation

Depicting the harsh realities of Bronze Age warfare, which relied heavily on blunt instruments, spears, arrows, and to a lesser extent swords, demanded ingenuity from the special effects team. “The fighting in The Iliad is brutal,” Crane stresses. “It’s written in a very descriptive nature. We’re not trying to glorify it, but if someone hits you hard with a hammer, it’s going to hurt and it’s going to do a lot of damage to your face, and that’s what we’re trying to show, to put an audience right there in the middle of it and show what it was actually like.”

Special effects supervisor Joss Williams and his team created a series of prosthetics that allowed the director to capture graphic mid-ground action while not requiring the same level of detail as the makeup prosthetics used in close-ups. “We engineered pneumatically-controlled animated dummies with prosthetic limbs, torsos, heads and chests,” Williams describes. “They could be used to show action such as a chariot running over somebody’s legs or a sword going straight through somebody’s chest.”

The strikingly realistic prosthetics are constructed in several layers. Bones, made of resin and foam, and muscles created in wax are laid over an inner armature. The limbs are prepped with stage blood and then a silicone skin is laid on to cover the entire apparatus. The prosthetic limbs are then attached to a pneumatic skeleton, which can be locked into any position. The effect is incredibly life-like. In addition to the animated dummies, Prosthetics made 30 naked bodies, 30 burned bodies and 30 each in Greek and Trojan clothing to portray slain soldiers on the battlefield.

Other special effects innovations included a device that made it possible to safely capture shots of spearheads puncturing a shield held mere inches away from Brad Pitt’s head. A version of Achilles’ shield was engineered to give the effect of the warrior stopping two spears thrown with tremendous force. “Brad held the shield in his hand,” Williams explains, “and the actor in the background mimed throwing a spear at him, which would later be added in by our visual effects team. Then Brad fired a trigger that shot a spear tip from a pressurized cylinder mounted on the other side of his shield, which punched through the shield with great force, giving the impression that he has caught a spear with it.”

Crane was responsible for another unique invention that provided the battlefield with an authentic, if unsavory, atmosphere. “We had these great big jets put into the ground filled with watermelon and ketchup, and every now and then they’d fire off and spray chunks of watermelon through a great big red mist so as people are getting hit, there’s always blood and gore flying through the air.”