Profile: WOLFGANG PETERSON REINVENTS 'TROY' FOR DVD WITH NEW DIRECTOR'S CUT
At three hours plus, this new version available on DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray is back to the way the director envisioned his Brad Pitt starrer to originally be
By A.C. FERRANTE, Editor in Chief
It’s rare, but not impossible, that a director gets to be back into his sprawling epic and completely rethink it into the film he always wanted it to be.
While Ridley Scott has been involved in that exercise with both BLADE RUNNER (twice now) and KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (as have many other powerful Hollywood directors), but for Wolfgang Peterson, revisiting his 2004 epic TROY which made over a half a billion dollars worldwide, it was all a matter of getting it right.
“When I see TROY and the theatrical TROY, TROY was okay for what it was then,” says Peterson. “And financially it was huge. Everyone can say, ‘what was wrong. We made so much money.’ In the case of TROY, I knew there was a much better movie there and I was begging Warner’s to let me do the much better movie. When you wake up, the film is out and you know, there is a different movie, it’s somewhere there and I had to get it back. And [the director’s cut] of TROY is different movie and if you see this one and the old one – it’s a different movie.”
Released to DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray today (and loaded with extras) as TROY: DIRECTOR’S CUT (there's also TROY: ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S EDITION with extra memorabilia including excerpts from Peterson’s shooting script), the epic film inspired by Homer’s classic Greek poem THE ILLIAD is transformed into a sprawling tome starring Brad Pitt as warrior Achilles who goes into battle against the impenetrable forces of Troy, led by their Prince Hector (Eric Bana), who have never lost a battle.
“People say ‘three hours and a half, it’s much faster than the old one,’” explains Peterson. “It has to do that the movie works better. It’s more honest and self-confident about telling the story and for an audience it allows them to understand the story much better and it’s much more accessible. All these elements are now new and improved and better and you have the feeling the film is shorter than the older one.”
Of the problems Peterson had with the theatrical cut was the running time, which he feels didn’t allow him the scope and breathing room to tell the story correctly.
“Clearly the danger of the theatrical version of it, it was too short,” Peterson admits. “My very first cut after we finished shooting, without credits, was three hours and ten minutes. The theatrical version later on, was exactly half and hour shorter than that. Now, when we’re sitting here talking about this in 2007, the new version is three hours and 12 minutes. It tells you obviously about what my first gut instinct about what this story needs, what kind of length and what breathe it needed was there from the very beginning. That was what I originally thought it should be. And I’m really thrilled that I got the opportunity. I asked for it and Warner Bros. said ‘yes.’ They spent more than a million dollars and we had 40 people doing three or four months of work -- basically to come back to the original vision that I had of this film.”
Not only did the film go back to Peterson’s original, there was actually time to scan the entire film into the digital realm where a painstaking color correction process was undertaken to give the movie it's new fantastic look. The score by James Horner was also re-thought, since it was originally rushed to make the deadlines for the original theatrical release.
“The window was so narrow, whatever [James] recorded [in L.A.], that night they would send it over the line to London [where it was being mixed] and that was our morning, and I had to mix it in with whatever got,” says Peterson. “I didn't have one day to stop and go ‘I don't like that.’ It was a day and day, worldwide release. [The score] was good, but it’s not the normal way you would do it. That was one of the big things, when I went back to do this version, ‘we have to do something with the music.’ Roy Prendergast, our genius music editor, he recut the music in a way that was unbelievable. It’s the same score, but differently cut. Some times, he went into the tracks, took all parts that didn’t sound right, and it was like recomposing his score, but it was all Horner’s score. I think it’s so beautiful and so organic and I think James Horner when he sees it, will be proud himself.”
In many ways, Peterson admits to being spoiled being able to put together his new presentation of TROY, because there was no outside involvement from the studio – it was just him in an editing room with his editor Peter Honess, finishing it the way he wanted it to be completed.
“It was wonderful,” Peterson beams. “Nobody was there. It was a pure director’s cut. No influence. Nobody at the studio ever looked at it. ‘Do whatever you want.’ So Peter Honess and I couldn't wait every day to come to work, to make everything possible. The whole editing process was ‘go back to the old thing’ and even improve on that and go further than that. This is a bolder version, because nobody asked me any questions and it wasn’t rated.”
In terms of what happened the first time around on the film, Peterson explains the film was a victim of being a “summer movie” and having to deliver a more broader based PG-13 film, which he says is a “typical Hollywood phenomenon.”
“That happens over and over again,” explains Peterson. “But I must tell you, the original director’s cut I delivered and showed to the studio that I was very proud of, was more or less the cut that is here. From then on, it went all the way down. [The original cut went through a] month of pressure, previews and studio notes. ‘Wolfgang, I think we’re too long. Short attention span -- kids can’t sit through a movie like that. It’s too sexy, too much nudity and we want to aim for a PG-13, because it will open up the audience.’ All of a sudden, you’re not realizing at some point, you are working against what the original idea of what Homer’s ILLIAD was. Homer’s stuff is brutal and violent and sexy -- it’s extreme, bold and powerful and it’s long and epic. There’s a lot of characters. It had the full spectrum of bloody and beautiful elements to it. I was not only forced to [change it], but I also thought [myself that] maybe it was too long for the summer time. It’s interesting as a creative process.”
And naturally, Peterson himself feels that at this point he started to become insecure about the material.
“I was not really aware of it, but at some point, under the stress of a big summer release, it trips up the creative process,” admits Peterson. “You lose a little focus of what originally was on the page and you think more about ‘in the preview they said ‘this and that,’’ and you get insecure. Insecure in that process is the most dangerous thing to happen. ‘Don’t take any risks’ and the studio is very much supporting you with that insecurity. ‘Go down the middle. It's summer.’ I would not do that again. I’ve learned a lot. Next time, I think there will be big fight. Absolutely. I will say ‘I will not do this again.’”
Ironically enough, Peterson was in a tug-of-war with two different projects at Warner Bros. before TROY went into production. One of them was BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN which was put on the fast track as well.
“I was very close to doing BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN and TROY with Warner Bros. and I said ‘let me do both,’” says Peterson. “One first, then the other. I didn’t have to make a decision, because they pulled the idea of BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN, because they got nervous that maybe [they should] start with an individual Superman film and Batman film. At one point, maybe when I’m 80 I’ll get to do BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN with a real old Christian Bale.”
As for the director’s take on it, he admits the dynamic was quite similar to the one between Achilles and Hector in TROY.
“It’s two things in your own chest fighting each other -- the good and the bad, the light and the dark,” says Peterson. “Superman is more the light creature and Batman is the dark creature of the night. Both are heroic people. To see if they would come together into a story, where they come from different planets so to speak, how would the dynamic between these two go. How would they conflict with each other. You’re always in a conflict and how would they work together. The dynamic between these different characters work and still do. They did it in the comics some times, but I think for a big motion picture, a BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN film could be really interesting.”
As for upcoming projects, the director would love a chance go back to the science fiction genre he once explored with 1985’s ENEMY MINE which he admits “didn’t really work with an audience.”
He adds, “After STAR WARS and everything, it came a bit late, but now it’s a cult picture.”
That said, he’s currently developing three separate sci-fi projects.
“Two of these movies are for Columbia,” says Peterson. “THE GRAYS is one of them, based on Whitley Strieber’s book [about aliens] and the other is UPRISING. [The third] one is ENDER’S GAME. I’m still working on ENDER’S GAME, It’s a very, very tricky adaptation, but a fascinating concept. I think at some point, I will do ENDER’S GAME. We are hanging in there. We will do that”
For now though, Peterson can finally put his TROY epic to rest.
“This has been an adventure of a lifetime and especially to go through that twice is a special wonderful thing,” says Peterson. “I said to my wife ‘finally now, I’m so proud, that it’s there in the director’s cut and it’s there forever. It’s there, out there and no one can take that away from me. At least this epic is the way I wanted it to be.’ It’s rare to be able to say ‘the way, I really wanted it to be.” This film cost close to $200 million and down to the tiniest detail and color, this is exactly the way I wanted it.”
And with TROY available in both HD-DVD and Blu Ray format, does Peterson have a winner in his eyes for the current format war? The director is not willing to get into the ring on that one just yet, though he does admit he only currently has an HD-DVD player in the screening room at his house though he says a Blu-Ray player isn’t too far behind.
“I will [get one] soon,” says Peterson. “Of course. I just have to find a little more space there to get the Blu-Ray in there.”
photo courtesy Warner Home Entertainment
Director Wolfgang Peterson promoting TROY: DIRECTOR'S CUT
CocoBeeBee from North sez....
Xenos, have you ever read a World's Finest or seen The Batman/Superman Movie? Peterson sounds like he absolutely has the characterizations right, so long as at some point in the movie they stop pounding the hell out of each other and kick some villain's ass.
10/1/2007 9:27:14 AM
Snakefire from .. sez....
Superman vs. Batman IS fluff, thoughtless action fluff. Ender's Game requires more finesse and brains than that and hopefully Peterson will deliver on that.
9/24/2007 9:15:46 AM
Xenos from sez....
Ugh. Peterson may have made some good films, but keep him away from Batman and Superman. He sounds like he doesn't know crap about the characters. We don't need another Superman Returns or Catwoman. Though certainly he sounds far better than Jon Peters, but his unfamiliarity with the characters is disturbing. Is it too much to ask for someone to make a comic book film and actually bases it off the characters and even a single book. Why would he commit to a self professed tricky adaptation in Enders Game and yet treat Batman vs Superman like fluff? I don't get the seeming double standard.
9/19/2007 2:14:03 AM