Troy: The Trojan Horse

“The Horse was a very pivotal design challenge in the film,” Phelps relates. “If you apply logic to it, the only building material the Greeks could have had would be wood from burnt ships, and I felt it should look like it was clearly thrown together in desperation in the twelve days that the Greeks had to build it. I felt that it should be a very pagan-feeling object that would really play on the Trojans’ religious beliefs. The Greeks needed something to compel the Trojans to bring this horse back into their religious center, which is the square inside the walls.”

Designing such an iconic figure meant that Phelps had to develop a look that evoked a feeling of recognition in the viewer while remaining true to the film’s philosophy of categorical realism. “I didn’t want to have a horse with wheels on it,” Phelps explains. “It’s sort of cliché and it didn’t really make sense. It seemed to me that seeing it on the beach for the first time with big wheels, it should also have a bow and a note saying ‘Take me home.'”

Working off of several reference materials (which included photos of a burnt, charred ship and a giant gorilla constructed entirely out of tires), three concept artists worked to come up with the perfect design. Once the right look was established, a sculptor took the sketch and interpreted it three-dimensionally, producing a twelve-inch maquette. Ultimately, a much larger scale, fully dressed-out model was made, which was then followed exactly by twelve polystyrene sculptors who carved the Horse on its final, grand scale.

The Horse was constructed at Shepperton Studios in London, but had to be built in two halves because there was no space available large enough to accommodate the enormous equine. “It was quite nerve wracking,” admits Phelps, “because the bottom half with the legs and the base was sculpted, and then the top half, with the head and shoulders. But it wasn’t going to be until two or three months later in Malta that we’d see the entire thing put together.”

The Horse was transported in pieces to Malta after the company made its move there at the beginning of May. Constructed mostly of steel and fiberglass fashioned to look like wood, it stood 38 feet high and weighed eleven tons. Once the sections had been forged it took workers weeks to assemble. It then had to be moved into position for its entrance through the 42-foot-high Trojan gates ‘ an entrance that called for some not-so-modern ingenuity.

“I’d seen a documentary about the Egyptians building the Pyramids that showed these massive stone blocks being pulled along on logs,” recalls Phelps. “This seemed a much more logical, subtle way of designing a means of moving the Horse.” A path made up of dozens of large logs was laid through the gate and a system of cable pulleys ‘ later removed from the film by computer graphics ‘ was set up to take most of the burden off the men towing the ropes.