Monday, September 20, 2010

The Design of Troy

Though it may not be especially historically accurate, one of the things I like about Troy (2004) is the production design.  Production Designer, Nigel Phelps is known for genre work.  He served as Art Director on Batman (1989) and went on to design Judge Dredd, Alien: Resurrection, Pearl Harbour and The Island.
I love the design of the map used to open the film.  It quickly sets the scene and the tone for the adventure the viewer is about to experience.
In the DVD bonus features, Phelps admits that the historical Troy was considerably smaller than the city as it appears in the film.  The design had to match the epic spectacle of the film so everything was exaggerated. 
The designs include various cultural influences from Greece to the Middle East.  This gives the city a unique look.  The designers were careful to make rules for themselves so that all the Trojan designs were consistent and easily distinguishable from the Greek designs.
The scale of the famed Trojan wall is so incredible that viewers might be tempted to think it was CG but it wasn't.  The crew built an actual wall about 400 feet long.  Not only that, but they had to build it twice!  A devastating hurricane destroyed most of the set and it had to be reconstructed to complete filming.
One of the great achievements in Troy's design was the fleet of Greek ships that sailed to Troy.  Homer said Helen's was the face that launched 1000 ships and the filmmakers originally tried to have 1000 ships on screen.  But when you see 1000 ships it actually looks like a great deal more so the filmmakers scaled back a bit.  Most of the ships in the film are variations of triremes (so-named for the three rows of oars on each side).  These war ships were commonly used on the Mediterranean from the 7th to the 4th century BCE.
Next to the walls of Troy, the Trojan Horse is probably the most essential design element for this story.  The production did a fantastic job of creating a realistic design based on the materials the Greeks would have had at hand.  The horse is obviously made from bits of lost ships but it has a strong silhouette and is easily identifiable as a horse.
This film would not be nearly as memorable without the stellar design work by Nigel Phelps and his team.  They created a world in which you can imagine great heroes battling one another for love, glory and power.

The sketches in this post are all from The Art of Troy book that is included in the Ultimate Collectors Edition DVD set.  The ones seen here are by artists who were not credited in the book.

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