“What does tonight mean to me? Terror! A lot of fear!” said David Benioff, the screenwriter of Troy, on the red carpet of the film’s premiere. “But I had a couple of drinks before I got here, so I’m feeling a little bit better.” On May 10, he joined the film’s stars, Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Peter O’Toole and Brian Cox, in front of the Ziegfeld Theater.
A certain actress Mr. Benioff has been linked to was noticeably absent. Wondering if he was single, we asked whether there’s anyone for whose face he’d launch 1,000 ships.
“My girlfriend, yeah-Amanda Peet,” he said. Turns out she’s off shooting a film with Ashton Kutcher-no danger there, if recent reports of his marriage to Demi Moore are not greatly exaggerated.
Another cerulean-eyed beauty was very much present. Despite (or perhaps because of) rumors that her marriage is on the fritz, Jennifer Aniston held court in a floor-length black gown with an open back that extended to the tailbone. She couldn’t remember who designed it.
“I’m so embarrassed!” she cried, much as the designer may when he or she reads this.
Orlando Bloom disappointed the droves of fans across the street holding homemade “Orlando” posters (which, surprisingly, outnumbered the “Brad” posters) when he failed to turn up. He’s currently on location in Morocco shooting Kingdom of Heaven with Ridley Scott. He was there a year ago, when production started on Troy, although hurricanes and the war in Iraq moved the operation to Mexico. Although conditions were hardly favorable (the cast reportedly suffered bouts of food poisoning), director Wolfgang Petersen has fond memories of the secondary set and even brought back a souvenir in the form of a cat.
“She was dying,” he explained. “A dog was biting off her little leg. Not leg, tail. And we brought her to Los Angeles and brought her back to life, and now she is a wonderful, wonderful, very lively being called Lola.”
Just then Diane Kruger, who plays Helen of Troy, swooped in and kissed the director on the side of the cheek. Swathed in Oscar de la Renta, the comely actress admitted it doesn’t take an invasion to win her over.
“Before I met my husband, he tried to date me for quite a few months, and I refused him,” she said. “I finally agreed to go on a date with him, and I expected him to, you know, bring out the expensive dinner table and woo me. He actually took me to a movie and to McDonald’s-so that was romantic, I thought. It was The Matrix!”
She and the rest of the cast soon settled in for the epic-although, at two hours and 46 minutes, few could stay put for its entirety. Actor Sean Bean-who plays Odysseus here and Boromir in The Lord of the Rings-took a smoke break and watched the remainder of the film standing in the back of the theater. While he watched his onscreen counterpart laying gold coins over the eyes of the fallen Achilles, the woman who launched a thousand haircuts flounced by, her no-name dress and her husband trailing behind.
Making an early exit for the after-party, Mr. Pitt and company accidentally brushed against The Transom.
“Excuse me,” he said graciously without breaking stride.
At Cipriani, the couple was joined by various screen gods and goddesses (Will Smith, Chris Noth, Eva Mendes, Snoop Dogg, Anne Heche), the music demigod (U2’s Bono), the demagogue (Spike Lee) and the mere mortal (that guy from The King of Queens). Famed twin Ashley Olsen (the blond one who isn’t being accused of anorexia) looked nervous, standing with her publicist in a white lacy number by Magda Berliner.
Nearby, actress Gina Gershon was chatting about the movie with a group of male friends. There’s more than a little similarity, to The Transom, between Troy and The Lord of the Rings, as Ms. Gershon’s conversation proved.
“Let’s talk about which of the characters was gay!” she said, sporting a glamorous updo. “That one guy was a little bit more than a cousin, don’t you think?”
The cousin in question was Garrett Hedlund, who played Mr. Pitt’s protégé onscreen and off. The two trained together to prep for filming. “I was a twig when I started. I was, like, 155, and I jumped way up!”
So did Mr. Pitt, whose signature bonsai leap popped up in almost every battle scene.
“It was a lot of hard work, this one, it really was,” he said. “And it shows on the screen, I think. But those are the ones that are worth it, ya know?”
One of the biggest challenges was stunt performance; no doubles were harmed in the filming of Troy, apparently.
“It’s all us,” confirmed Eric Bana, a.k.a. Prince Hector. “I’ve gotta say, I was rehearsing in a track suit there, but it was a lot easier in the skirt. There was a little bit more movement, things flow a little easier-you know, nothing gets caught.”
Mr. Pitt, on the other hand, got caught with his smarty-pants down. When questioned on his knowledge of Greek mythology prior to filming, he admitted: “Um, I would say iffy at best. No, we didn’t cover it in high school, really.” Three cheers for the public-school system!
We asked whether he has an Achilles’ heel. “I’m passing on that one!” he laughed, and swore it wasn’t his well-publicized battle with cigarettes. “War? I have no war! I believe in seasons. I’m on, I’m off, I’m on, I’m off. I’m on right now! There’s nothing good about it, but I’m on.”
Later, the actor snatched a fedora from co-star Peter O’Toole and perched it on his newly shorn head. Mr. O’Toole paused to reminisce, “When Brad and I had finished doing this very long and difficult scene, we were both absolutely exhausted. Then, in one voice-not rehearsed, nothing-we both said, ‘We’ve done the fucker!'”
On Friday, May 7, former Felicity star Scott Speedman was leaning back on a plush couch in the Church Lounge at the Tribeca Grand, recovering from a party the night before for The 24th Day, a film that premiered at the Tribeca film festival in which he played an H.I.V.-positive man who confronts and kidnaps the man who infected him.
“It shows more what I can do on some level,” he said of his against-type role in the film. “A lot of times I would play nice, passive boyfriend types of characters, like in Felicity, but here I’m pushing the action, in a sense, and kind of running the show.”
The handsome 28-year-old actor, wearing a faded green polo shirt and baggy jeans, stretched his arms out and slowly leaned forward to take a sip of water. He looked like he had just woken up on a California beach and spoke with a laid-back surfer’s nonchalance. “I don’t know what the façade is, but I’m not really that laid-back,” he said. “I think it’s kind of a protective thing that I do, or a character thing that I can keep in control, but when I’m around my friends I’m anything but laid-back. I’m more neurotic.” It was still hard to picture him in the aggressive role he plays in the movie. “Anger’s never been something that’s been hard for me to tap into.”
He said he still kept in touch with Ms. Russell and the rest of the Felicity cast, but was “not good at calling people back. It’s more than nice when I see the people. Those people all were good people. Nobody was an asshole.”
He now wants to move on from TV shows, but said “if the right thing came along, I would totally do it.” Mr. Speedman hasn’t worked in a year and a half because he said the right movie role has yet to come his way.
“There’s a lot of good writing on TV that I don’t see in movies right now,” he said. “If I wanted to work, I could find work,” he added, “but I want to work at a high level.
“I’m kind of ambitious,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t really see my way in now, though I don’t really see movies that I’m like, ‘I can see myself in that.'”
Mr. Speedman found a lot of reasons that there were few options out there for guys like him. He summed them up with: “Preteen girls are kind of dominating.”
What The World Needs Now
On May 9, the Tribeca Film Festival officially closed for the year 2004, with a red-carpet-worthy awards ceremony.
And although the little neighborhood that gives the festival its name returned to a state of normalcy after being traipsed through by over 400,000 people in its nine-day run (that’s up 50,000 from last year) and accommodating some 80,000 ticket-holders who ventured downtown (up almost 17,000 from last year), the memory lingered on for festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal, along with a raspy throat.
“I’ve been sick the whole festival,” said Ms. Rosenthal on her way to another doctor’s appointment. “I’m still sick. I think I’m sick and exhausted. But that said, I feel really good.”
The festival was an ordeal to put on. And not without its hitches: A concert with Van Morrison, Steve Winwood, Macy Gray and the Black Eyed Peas only drew half the crowd of last year’s free concert with Norah Jones. Some store owners grumbled that the festival wasn’t enhancing their bottom line as much as they’d been promised. People waited over half an hour in lines to see films, sometimes not getting in at all. Liz Smith even complained about the chaos at the screening of Dennie Gordon’s film New York Minute, starring the Olsen twins.
If this year proved that the Tribeca Film Festival has yet to hit critical mass, it also offered some satisfactions: During the festival, Lions Gate picked up the distribution for House of D, the film written, directed and starring David Duchovny, validating claims that the fest could indeed be a marketplace for independent films. Who still remembers Rocky & Bullwinkle?
“I think that slowly but surely, the film community is embracing the festival,” Ms. Rosenthal said optimistically. “I mean, there’s still work to be done. It will prove eventually to be a platform to launch pictures.”
Like Toronto? Or Sundance? The Transom offered.
“When anyone mentions us in the same breath, I’m flabbergasted,” Ms. Rosenthal said. “All I know is that we do what we do.” Quod facit, facit?
Well, maybe. But during one of Ms. Rosenthal’s many trips to the doctor during the festival, what they do seemed good enough to at least one Tribecan: the doctor’s office manager, who had recently gone to the festival to see a documentary.
“She said to me, ‘You don’t understand. This is like your team being in the World Series,'” Ms. Rosenthal recalled. “And I looked at her. The office manager? Those kind of moments … you just go, ‘Wow!'”
These, she said, are the parameters in which to judge the festival’s success.
“The world didn’t need another film festival,” Ms. Rosenthal concluded. “But Tribeca did.”
Indie-film director Jim Jarmusch and White Stripes lead singer Jack White share a fascination with Nikola Tesla. Who? You know-the 19th-century Serbian-American inventor, that contemporary and rival of Thomas Edison apparently inadequately immortalized by the aging hard-rock band Tesla.
At one point, in fact, Messrs. Jarmusch and White excitedly hatched a plan for the former to direct a music video for “There’s No Home for You Here,” at the time the first single off the Stripes’ second album, Elephant. It would’ve starred Mr. White as Tesla, against Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sinister Edison, “battling to the death” with their inventions. One scene would have re-created the infamous turn-of-the-century electrocution of Topsy the elephant, a Coney Island mainstay. And you thought Britney Spears was bad!
But the idea was scotched due to budget concerns. “It became a half-million-dollar video that was just insane,” Mr. White told The Transom during a press junket for Mr. Jarmusch’s new movie, Coffee and Cigarettes (in the movie, he wheels a homemade Tesla coil into a coffee shop and discusses the troubled life of the inventor over some C&C). “Just the idea of renting an elephant, electrocuting an elephant …. “
“Not really electrocuting an elephant,” put in drummer Meg White, giggling.
“We couldn’t figure out how to do it cheaply,” Mr. White said.
Coffee and Cigarettes is a series of fictional short subjects about the two titular addictions featuring assorted “cool” people: Bill Murray, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, members of the Wu-Tang Clan and Life Is Beautiful’s Roberto Benigni. The two Stripes were showing their support for the flick in different ways: Mr. White was chain-smoking as if afraid to break with the movie’s protocol, while the voluptuous Ms. White sported a black T-shirt that read “squrl,” a fictitious band from the film.
“I was going to be Tesla’s wife, right?” she said, beaming. The two were married, but have since divorced, even though Mr. White likes to assert that Ms. White is his “Big Sis.”
“Tesla’s friend,” Mr. White said gravely. “Sort of his girlfriend. And she was going to be crying and being pulled away from the dead elephant. The whole thing was set up. But it didn’t happen. It would have been great.”