Gary Susman
September 11, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Brad Pitt may be heading to Warner Bros.’ ancient-Greek epic ”Troy” to play Achilles, but those he left behind on the set of the studio’s sci-fi epic ”The Fountain” think he’s a heel. So says an open letter some of them wrote, complaining that his last-minute abandonment of the soon-to-shoot project has thrown hundreds of set designers, carpenters, electricians, and other crew members out of work.

Variety reported two weeks ago that Pitt was dropping out of ”The Fountain” over concerns about writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s script. The letter, published at Ain’t It Cool News, says, ”Aronofsky said he and producer Gil Adler tried everything they could to convince him to come back on, but no cigar. The fact is that Warner Brothers will not go ahead without another big-name star. Aronofsky said there are only four other big names that are of Pitt’s box-office caliber, all of whom are unavailable at such short notice.”

The film, which was supposed to shoot in Australia this fall, had already been delayed once, for a year, because of costar Cate Blanchett’s pregnancy last year. But the letter writers, saying they represent 400 crew members, say, ”What amazes us is that it appears Brad Pitt has no real understanding of the impact of his decision, now only seven weeks from shooting. We estimate there is over 1500 people here in Australia, including family and children, who are now displaced and unemployed.” The writers say that Aronofsky ”has encouraged us to voice our anger at Pitt’s decision.”

E! reports that Warner Bros. had already spent up to $20 million building the sets, and that, while Pitt might earn $17.5 million for ”Troy” (about three times what he was due to earn for ”Fountain”), the studio might dock some of his ”Troy” pay to cover some of those pre-production costs. Pitt, Aronofsky, and Warner Bros. have not commented.

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