Casting Helen of Troy

Arts, entertainment, and more.
May 13 2004 7:44 PM

The Many Faces of Helen

How to find an actress who can launch a thousand ships.

Hot enough for you?
Hot enough for you?

Click here to see a slide show that explains how casting directors and artists have solved—and, more often, failed to solve—this problem.

For the producers of Troy, the forthcoming Warner Brothers spectacle, finding an actress to play Helen was tricky. There is no shortage of beautiful women in Hollywood, but faces that can reliably launch thousands of ships are scarce.

Advertisement

TheIliad, you'll remember, boasts a very improbable plot: Helen—who was universally considered the most ravishing woman around—was married to Menelaus, the Spartan king, until Paris, a pretty boy from Troy, seduced her and carried her off. Menelaus, incensed, then launched his ships, set sail for Troy, and fought a bloody 10-year war to get her back. The ensuing carnage calls for a woman who is literally drop-dead beautiful.

Which leaves casting directors with a dilemma: What does drop-dead beautiful look like these days? As we become increasingly convinced that beauty—and truth, and almost everything else—lies in the eye of the beholder, we're less likely to concur about how Helen should appear. Already, critics who've seen the film quibble that the Helen in Troy is not beautiful enough. This is not the fault of the casting directors, who considered Victoria's Secret models and improbable pop stars alike. How can you find—or, in the case of artists, paint—a woman who everyone will agree is the most beautiful on earth?

Click here to see a slide show that explains how casting directors and artists have solved—and, more often, failed to solve—this problem.

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.