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DAVID BENIOFF ON "TROY"...

How do you handle the pressure and the responsibility that comes with adapting The Iliad - one of the most important books in literature? Mirtha
I don't type my sentences on an arena's pitch, surrounded by thousands of cheering or booing fans - I don't feel pressure to please a crowd. While working on "Troy", I can't think, "Oh my Lord, this is the mother of all epics, the cornerstone of Western literature. If I screw it up, classicists around the world will issue a fatwa and assassinate me with bronze daggers."

I can't measure up to Homer. His composition has survived for nearly three millennia and remains the world's most beautiful and mournful depiction of war. But the story of the Trojan War does not belong to Homer. The characters he employs were legendary long before he was born. Dozens of different versions of the War have been told, and my script ransacks ideas from several of them. The script is not, truly, an adaptation of The Iliad. It is a retelling of the entire Trojan War story. So I'm not worried about desecrating a classic - Homer will survive Hollywood.

Other than The Iliad, what sources are you using for the "Troy" screenplay? Mary
The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Robert Graves' The Greek Myths and a good detail of critical literature, particularly the work of Bernard Knox, whose introduction to Robert Fagles' superb translation of The Iliad is probably my single favorite work of Homeric analysis.

I was wondering why The Gods of Olympus were excluded from "Troy", who all played a big part in The Iliad. Steph
"Troy" is an adaptation of the Trojan War myth in its entirety, not The Iliad alone. The Iliad begins with the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon over the slave girl Briseis, nine years into the war. The equivalent scene occurs halfway through my script. Meanwhile, The Iliad ends after Priam returns from Achilles' shelter with his grim cargo - long before the construction of the Trojan Horse, and a good twenty pages before my script ends.

This is a massive story that we're trying to tell in two-and-a-half hours. The narrative is crammed with some of literature's most intriguing characters: Achilles, Hector, Helen, Paris, Priam, Odysseus, Agamemnon, Patroclus, etc. All these characters have to emerge on screen as fully realized human beings. The battle scenes have to mirror the epic confrontations Homer described. The journey of the thousand ships from Greece to Troy has to be depicted. Everything takes times, and we're not making a twelve-hour miniseries. We're not making a trilogy of three-hour movies.

 

 

 

There is no such thing as a faithful adaptation. Even when I adapted my own (very slim, very un-epic) novel, I had to eliminate one of my favorite characters, because there simply wasn't enough time to tell his story along with everyone else's. Every adaptation requires that the screenwriter make difficult choices - and in particular, difficult cuts. In the case of "Troy", I chose to tell the human story: the story of Helen's love for Paris, of Achilles' epic duel with Hector, of the fatal trap that Odysseus sprung on the Trojans.

The gods do not appear on screen but their presence is everywhere and their influence profound.

What is your take on Helen of Troy? Was she the ultimate bad girl, or a victim of circumstances beyond her control? Cat
Well, neither, really. Tolstoy must have thought about Helen when creating his Anna - a woman famed for her beauty, bored with her marriage, abandoning her home for a dashing but somewhat feckless suitor. If we strictly adhere to the mythology, it would be fair to call her a victim of circumstances, for she was the prize Aphrodite gifted Paris upon being awarded the golden apple. But, as stated ad nauseam above, the gods are not floating about Mt. Olympus in this telling, and there is no deus ex machina. If Helen's will is free, the choice is her own, and the consequences on her own conscience. I think - I hope - that the script doesn't judge her for the choice, but doesn't shy away from depicting the devastation such a choice inflicted on innocent people.

If the "Troy" is well received, do you think that there would be any chance of a sequel, maybe in the form of The Odyssey? And would you write the script? Mike Devreux
As this is Hollywood, I'd say if the movie makes money (as opposed to whether it's well received or not), there's an excellent chance for a sequel. So an Odyssey is possible, or the studio could go in a different direction and take on The Aeneid. Either way, I wouldn't want to take myself out of the running prematurely, but currently I'm not keen on the idea.