Trojan war shows Bush and Blair's Achilles' heel say actors who see a modern-day similarity

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The Independent Culture

The epic Greek story in the Hollywood movie Troy of bloodthirsty, power-seeking rulers laying ruin to a city has clear parallels with modern British and American leaders and the war in Iraq, the film's stars, Brad Pitt and Saffron Burrows, said yesterday.

Speaking before the world premiere of the $175m (£100m) film at the Cannes Film Festival, Burrows said that warmongering Greek brothers Agamemnon and Menelaus reminded her of "a fraternity in the world at the moment" - a veiled reference to Tony Blair and George Bush.

The British actress, who plays Andromache in the film, said: "What's interesting for me about Troy and the story of The Iliad is its the eternal question of the futility of war, the weariness of war, and a terrible sense of dêjá vu of what the Trojans faced and what we face today."

The story, in which the Greek kings played in the movie by the British actors Brian Cox and Brendan Gleeson, lay waste to Troy by use of the fabled wooden horse, was entirely pertinent to today, she said.

"You cannot watch a film that's a historical story without being somewhat informed by what we're all living through at the moment. I find it makes our story even more powerful. We're living in a time of great trouble," she said.

Pitt, who plays Achilles, said: "There's no way if you read The Iliad that you can't make a comparison."

The tragedy of war and the deaths it causes in the Greek classic were themes that clearly resonated today, he said.

But he added that the research he carried out for the physically demanding role suggested that what Homer, the author of The Iliad , wanted to show was an "acceptance of a greater humanity" and "how we get past these hatreds and resentments that build between us". The film was unveiled last night with the full red-carpet treatment in Cannes, and a strong showing by the largely British cast alongside its American stars.

Cox, Sean Bean, who plays Odysseus, and Orlando Bloom, who plays Paris, were also in Cannes before the film's worldwide release today.

Although it was largely filmed in Malta, Mexico and Morocco, it is a British co-production with Malta and more than half the estimated £100m budget was spent on UK talent and facilities. This included a five-week shoot at the Shepperton Studios in Middlesex and virtual effects work on the vast battle scenes by the Moving Picture Company and Famestore CFC.

Spurred on by the success of Gladiator , the film is the first of a new slate of sword and sandals epics, with Oliver Stone's Alexander soon to be released. Bean said it was "just great to be involved with great stories. I personally find it very rewarding to be involved in a classic story with legendary characters."

Cox said: "These films are the best because they're the best stories. All we want are great stories and the opportunity to do them." He added that Peter O'Toole, who plays Priam in Troy , was the archetypal actor of the classic epic heritage.

While Pitt conceded that the passion for these old-style blockbusters was far from over, he would not be seen in such a costume again, even though his wife, Jennifer Aniston, had liked it so much she asked him to bring it home. "I feel like I've done it. I've done with the skirt," he said.

In the film, Achilles is spurred on by the desire to be remembered for thousands of years. But asked about parallels with his own stardom, Pitt said it would fade. He told how he regarded Julie Christie as the quintessential star of the Sixties and Seventies but when he told younger actors that she was to play his mother, they did not know who she was.

"The point is it's all going down. It all fades. You enjoy it while you can," he said. Asked about interpretations made by some scholars that Achilles was homosexual, Pitt said from his reading that was not the case. "I didn't find anything in it that points me in that direction," he said.

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