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The University of Southampton
International Summer School

Film Stardom, History and the Hollywood Ancient Epic

Troy featuring Brad Pitt (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004)
Troy featuring Brad Pitt (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004)

From marble statuary to celluloid legends, the legacy of the ancient world and its imagery has been invoked on the screen since cinema’s inception. Over the course of this topic we will closely analyse a variety of films, such as Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000) and Troy (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004), to discover the legacy of ancient world (particularly Greece and Rome) on today’s screens and question why filmmakers still draw from this tradition today. Our key area of concern is how the imagery of the ancient past has persisted on the screen and shaped modern concepts of stardom. We will be exploring such questions as: how do these films draw on recognisable imagery from the past? What roles do stars play in connecting audiences to the past? Why might a filmmaker wish to invoke such linkages? And finally, what can historical films tell us about our present?

We will begin by examining how the ancient past inspired Hollywood when its stars first emerged in the 1910s and 20s, and how film stardom played a key role in later epics through analysis of the heroic figures of Alexander the Great and Achilles. We will also be making connections throughout to films outside the Hollywood context, including early Italian epics to East Asian cinema in the 21st Century, to gain a wider understanding of the development and influence of the epic film genre.

The academic organising this topic is Professor Michael Williams, Head of Film.  Find out more about the PGR tutor, Chris Tubb, on our Meet your PGR Tutor page.

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