Nothing to do with the condom of that name: this is apparently a film "based" on Homer's Iliad directed by Wolfgang (Das Boot) Petersen and starring Brad Pitt as Achilles. When I used to teach the Iliad we always discussed who we'd cast in the film version - I have to say that B Pitt was never mentioned: but our debate was theoretical only. We knew that the Greeks had deliberately avoided the Iliad as a source for drama, out of a sense of awe. It was already the supreme tragedy - how could it be improved upon? I fear the worst - we know from the trailer and pre-release hype that the gods will not be appearing. At least DeMille didn't try to make his Ten Commandments - back in the great days of film epic - without some reference to the Almighty. Also we seem to be going to get the expected cast of thousands (no CG effects, apparently) - instead of Homer's individual duels, the trailer shows literally thousands of chariots hurtling across the plain in a Lord of the Rings kind of way. And the film will not end with the death of Hector and Priam's visit to Achilles: it includes the wooden horse, and no doubt therefore the full sack. Will Achilles still be there leading the attack? Or will the director have found a way to deal with the arrival of Neoptolemus, fully grown and ready for battle (at age 10?) But I predict a "Perfect Storm" (Petersen's last blockbuster) from classicists! [April 2004]
One of the most expensive films ever made in France, based on the cartoon characters Asterix and Obelix and starring Gerard Depardieu (guess who he plays?) is on its way (opening in France on 3 February 1999). The intiguingly named Laetitia Casta plays Falbala. Report in Paris-Match.
"The much-trailed release of Disney's Hercules has rekindled enthusiasm among adult learners for the Classics. Latin GCSE evening classes at Park Lane College, Leeds, have more than doubled their intake this term, as a result of growing interest - among everyone from recent college graduates to hospital workers - in the animated Roman superhero." (vebatim from FE Now! November 1997)
Despite renaming the film ("Beyond the myth of Heracles"[sic]), and handing out warning booklets at every screening (outlining the REAL myth), the launch of the Mouse's latest dropping has been a disaster in Greece. In two weeks since it opened in Athens, cinemas have recorded record losses. Permission for an open-air première in the Pnyx was denied, by Director of Antiquities Dr Yiannis Tzedakis."This film is not for Greece. It is not for Athens. We Greeks have a thing about myths. We take them very seriously." So what's wrong with a Herc who only does four labours (including one pinched from Perseus and one from Theseus), who's the legitimate son of a lovey-dovey Zeus and doting Hera, and who's best mate is a hairy dwarf - even if he does have the name of Philoctetes (Heracles' final benefactor in the REAL myth, who lit the funeral pyre when no one else dared and received the fatal bow for his pains)? In Greece even six-year-olds know who killed the Minotaur! The verdict? "The film has trivialised and pillaged European culture in the name of profit." (Guardian December 19, 1997)
The movie version of the Odyssey was premiered in UK last week. On the Sky Movie Channel. Why? Where are the Telemachus dolls, the Charybdis bubble-bath, Circe's sausages? See the Guardian review (October 18 1997) in Presscuttings.
I'm not sure I can still use the name Hercules without infringing some dire Disney© copyright. If you dare to visit the website, you'll find the threats for infringement of same are far more scary than any of Scarfe's monsters. However, classicists in search of that special present will now be able to choose little plastic images of the Man himself, his bit Megara, and "Philoctetes" - a pot-bellied dwarf with a red nose, horns and hairy legs (particularly fine). I haven't seen the film yet - it opened in UK on 10th October, but it seems certain to take its place among Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts and The Life of Brian - the movies which have changed the public's perception of the Classical world for all time. (Any other contenders?)
Hercules' greatest challenge?
Hercules, in his latest incarnation as a Disney cartoon character, will have to defeat at least 14 other superstars to make it through this summer. The animated epic (with voices by Danny DeVito - no! - and James Woods) is only one of an unprecedented 15 $100,000,000+ movies to be launched this year ( 1997; US
Herodotus and the Oscars
Herodotus is delighted to be told that his work as Father of History has received the ultimate accolade. In Anthony Mingella's film of Michael Ondaatje's novel, the unconscious English Patient (who turns out to be Hungarian) has only one thing to help identify him - a copy of Herodotus in his pocket. Let's hope some of the 13 (I think) nominations for this excellent film turn into the real thing. Herodotus' Histories look set to become hot tie-in merchandise [Reviews in most papers March 1997]