Troy | 2004
Brad Pitt seemed natural casting as Achilles, poster boy for the Greeks, in Wolfgang Petersen’s good, old fashioned epic, which takes a few liberties with the legend – compressing the ten-year siege of Troy into a fortnight, coyly demoting Patroclus (Garrett Hedlund) from Achilles’ lover to his cousin, and prematurely bumping off Agamemnon (Brian Cox). But after all, it’s a legend not a history lesson.
Some interior sets, including the Palace of Troy, were filmed on sets built at Shepperton Studios in the UK, but most of the production was shot on Malta and at the southern tip of Baja California, the long, skinny finger of Mexico dangling down the west coast from the Californian border.
The streets and the grand square of Troy were built on a ten-acre site within the 17th Century military compound, Fort Ricasoli, on the south entrance to the Grand Harbour at Valletta on Malta. It’s where the vast Colosseum set for Ridley Scott’s Gladiator had stood, and stands opposite Fort St Elmo, which had been the ‘Turkish’ prison location for Midnight Express).
Now managed by the Malta Film Commission, Ricasoli also appears as the ‘Red Keep’ in TV’s A Game of Thrones.
Finally trundled into heart of Troy, the wooden horse (actually steel and fibreglass), standing 38 feet high, was made at Shepperton and had to be shipped out to Malta in sections.
More sets were built in a hangar at Hal Far, a former RAF airfield now one of the island’s main industrial estates, down in southeast Malta, between Birzebbuga and Iz-Zurrieq.
Achilles and the Greeks reach the Trojan shore at Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, on the island’s northwest coast alongside the popular Golden Bay.
The temple ruins at ‘Phtia’, where Achilles and Patroclus are practicing their swordplay when Odysseus (Sean Bean) arrives to ask them to join the attack on Troy, was built on the cliffside at Mellieha, a 15th Century town between St Paul’s Bay and Mellieha Bay, to the north.
Coincidentally, two other TV productions based on Greek legends, The Odyssey (1997) directed by Andrei Konchalovsky (with Isabella Rossellini and Christopher Lee), and Helen of Troy (2003), filmed on many of the same locations as Troy.
The larger beach scenes and the great wall and gates of ‘Troy’ were filmed in Mexico, at Cabo San Lucas on the very southern tip of Baja California, nearly 800 miles south of the border with the USA.
The Greek seafront encampment was filmed at Playa El Faro Viejo (Old Lighthouse Beach), a couple of miles west of Cabo San Lucas itself.
After most of the filming was completed, the walls of ‘Troy’ were substantially damaged by Hurricane Marty. With the climactic fight between Achilles and Hector still to shoot, the entire ‘gates of Troy’ set had to be rebuilt.