Culturebox

The Many Faces of Helen

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

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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.

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.

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