Troy: The Final Battleground
The first and second units wrapped their work in Malta and set off for the final and potentially most arduous portion of the filming, which began on July 11th in Los Cabos, Mexico at the southernmost tip of the Baja peninsula, 1,100 miles from the U.S. border.
Hundreds of crewmembers were hired from all over Mexico, many from Mexico City and beyond. An immense amount of preparation was still needed to get the location ready for filming once the core crew of 350 people arrived.
Much had already been accomplished before the cast and crew arrived on the 2,800 acre compound that would serve as Troy’s new backlot. 230 laborers had been hired, the vast majority brought in from Mexico City, to build the Greek ships, the magnificent Temple of Apollo and the imposing Wall of Troy.
One of the most complex projects facing the production was clearing the way for the Wall. Surrounding the Mexico beach location were thousands of acres of scrub and cactus stretching to the sea, approximately a square mile of which would have to cleared for the battlefield.
An environmental study was required before permits could be issued, and among the requirements was the preservation of certain varieties of cactus. Production had to arrange for botanists to count, categorize and tag each cactus. Then 4,000 cacti had to be removed by hand, transplanted to a nursery and maintained until filming was completed, at which point they were replanted in the same spot from which they were removed.
Similar care had to be taken with wildlife along the beach encampment. The entire coast of Mexico is an endangered turtle habitat, so to allow production to occupy such a long stretch of sand, they were required to implement a turtle protection program. Two specialists were hired to live on the property and patrol the beach 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the six months of filming. When turtles were spotted laying eggs, the team would collect the eggs and put them in a fenced incubation area. Then when they hatched 45 days later, they would bring them down to the shore and release them.
Once the area was environmentally secured and cleared, 80 craftsmen under the supervision of construction manager Tony Graysmark began to build the exterior wall and gates of Troy. It took four months and 200 tons of plaster to erect the structure. The crew built 500 feet of wall, which was on average 40 feet tall and reached as high as 60 feet in the central area where the gates stood. It was later digitally extended for miles in both directions.
Unfortunately, when filming was almost completed, the filmmakers discovered that their Wall was not unbreachable after all. With the first unit wrapped and the second unit with just two weeks of shooting left in Mexico, on Sunday, September 21st at around 2:00 a.m., Hurricane Marty hit the southern tip of Baja. The film sets suffered major damage ‘ including the collapse of the middle two thirds of the Wall of Troy.
Simon Crane’s second unit crew were able to shoot a week’s worth of work on the beach ‘ despite the absence of half the Greek fleet and part of Apollo’s Temple. But it would take a month to rebuild the Trojan Wall. Petersen returned with Crane and a crew of about a hundred to complete the last portion of filming in late December.
“Making this movie was a bit like being one of the characters in it,” notes producer Diana Rathbun. “At times it took superhuman effort on everybody’s part to get it done, and logistically, it’s been a challenge to say the least. But I’ve never worked on a film for which so many people had so much passion.”