Troy Story


    WARRIORS: Bana, Pitt and Bloom suited- and buffed- up for the film

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    Warner Bros. president and COO Alan Horn insists that none of the chaos or overruns worried him. "We can plan a budget in advance," says Horn, "but it's a little tricky, you know? We're sacking Troy. I had complete faith in Wolfgang. I wouldn't have him do Miss Congeniality, but with this, I was not concerned."

    Despite Horn's sangfroid, there is no guarantee that Troy will be a hit. Summer blockbusters have become the riskiest investment in the film business. In his book Hollywood Economics, economist Arthur De Vany analyzed 2,015 movies to determine what succeeds and what fails. The answer, best summarized by screenwriter William Goldman, is that "nobody knows anything." What De Vany did learn is that moviegoers behave according to the principles of Bose-Einstein condensation — a fancy way of saying they are more likely to go to a movie if they receive an "authentic signal" that other people have enjoyed it. Before a movie opens, studios can generate inauthentic signals by securing a star and advertising heavily, creating the impression of a phenomenon. This puts butts in seats on opening weekend and gets the competition out of the way. "You can orchestrate an opening," says De Vany. "What you're doing is briefly dominating supply. That's not demand."

    The long-term demand necessary to sustain a blockbuster is still dependent on the authentic signal, word of mouth. Last year's The Matrix: Reloaded took in $91.7 million opening weekend; two weeks later it earned $15.6 million. Word of mouth can just as easily work to a movie's advantage, but not if there are tons of other movies right behind it jamming the signal. "Studios may think that they're reducing risk by having a week to themselves," says De Vany, "but they're wrong. One studio can throw a boulder in the pond and make a splash. If many do, you get turbulence and chaotic audience behavior."

    Horn insists Troy is a safe bet when home-video and foreign-box-office revenues are factored in, but even he admits there's risk. So why make such a sprawling hydra of a movie and throw it into Hollywood's most competitive season? In part because no one knows anything. Troy could be a monster hit. But for everyone from Petersen and Horn to the lowliest production assistant, the audacity of the enterprise is, in large part, the point. "As an actor [on a movie like this], you get to feel like you're an explorer," says Bana. "It's completely different from being tucked away in some air-conditioned studio every day. You feel like you're all in."

    Petersen naturally puts it in his own unique way. "I have many favorite scenes in the movie," he says. "One, of course, is the scene with Priam and Achilles. In the whole huge movie, it's the smallest scene. Just two guys talking to each other. I also love when Achilles lands on the beach at Troy and calls to all the soldiers, 'Go get your immortality!' You get this sense that this is maybe a dark, kind of crazy guy, right? But he has enormous dreams."

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