Troy: Raising Troy
From London, production next moved to the Mediterranean island of Malta, where exteriors of the city of Troy were erected on 10 acres inside a 17th century military compound called Fort Ricasoli. Malta is a country that is rich in artifacts and archaeological ruins ‘ some pre-dating the events of Troy by over 2,000 years. The production team decided that none of the existing structures looked as if they would have existed in 1200 BC. As a result, the entire city had to be built from the ground up. More than 500 Maltese workers were hired and nearly 200 U.K. craftsmen were brought to the island to begin the construction of Troy at the beginning of the year.
While the island’s strong winds, extreme heat and humidity played havoc with the filming schedule, putting Petersen in a daily state of uncertainty about what he’d be filming until he’d heard the morning weather reports, construction continued inside the Ft. Ricasoli compound. Finally, the finishing touches were put on the Palace and the streets of Troy were dressed by two-time Oscar-winning set decorator Peter Young for the filming of two grand entrances.
A crowd of 1,200 extras were costumed, made up and coifed for a scene in which a cavalcade of mounted Apollonian guardsmen escort Hector and Paris through the city as they present Helen to the people of Troy for the first time. “It is when Helen is introduced to the city that the audience first sees this world,” comments Phelps, “and as a viewer, they should have the same reaction as Helen does when she sees it for first time. They should be in awe.”
Young wanted the street that the procession winds down to provide the audience with a multi-dimensional first glimpse of the city’s character. “To bring the buildings to life we had to include all those details that make a city look lived in,” he notes. “It wouldn’t do to merely have some pottery on display and costumed people walking around. We had to give them things that would involve them in daily commerce; working in a smithy’s shop, carrying baskets, pushing carts and such. All that activity in the background becomes the barely perceptible nuance that adds a bit of reality to everything that’s going on in center stage.”
That ethos extended through the entire expansive city, which is gradually revealed throughout the film. “In the city square and with the streets I tried to show a couple of different sides to life there,” says Phelps. “We had the big main thoroughfare and then on the side streets there are more ordinary slices of life. The square is much more of a ceremonial place, so we wanted the design to be more formal and austere. Ultimately, it’s the Trojan Horse’s final resting place, so essentially we worked backwards ‘ knowing that there’s going to be a forty-foot horse in the middle of this square, what’s going to look good around it?'”