‘The Lost City of Z’ production notes
Synopsis: Based on author David Granns nonfiction bestseller, THE LOST CITY OF Z tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment who regard indigenous populations as savages, the determined Fawcett supported by his devoted wife (Sienna Miller), son (Tom Holland) and aide de camp (Robert Pattinson) returns time and again to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case, culminating in his mysterious disappearance in 1925. An epically-scaled tale of courage and obsession, told in Grays classic filmmaking style, THE LOST CITY OF Z is a stirring tribute to the exploratory spirit and those individuals driven to achieve greatness at any cost.
THE LOYAL AIDE-DE-CAMP
Gray cast Robert Pattinson to play Henry Costin, Fawcett’s steadfast right-hand man and surveying partner. The Twilight star has admired Gray’s filmmaking ever since he saw the director’s 2007 gritty crime caper We Own the Night. “I remember thinking that was one of the best pieces of filmmaking I’d ever seen,” Pattinson says. “Then I saw Two Lovers, which is one of my favorite films. I love the performances James gets out of his actors. He shoots in this very kind of classical way so I really wanted to work with him.”
Pattinson enjoyed researching Costin’s psychological motivations in the context of Great Britain’s strait-laced military culture of the early 1900s. “If you’ve been in the Army where everyone’s constantly giving you a hard time and you suddenly have a commanding officer like Fawcett, who’s out of his mind and basically lets you do whatever you want as long as you don’t complain — well, I think that’s something Costin really appreciated,” says the actor.
Most of Pattinson’s scenes took place in uncomfortable situations in the jungle, where he forged a close rapport with Hunnam. “Charlie and I would be an hour up river from the base camp basically covered in sand fleas all day,” Pattinson says. “It’s definitely a bonding experience when there’s no way to hide from extreme conditions. I remember we pushed a wooden raft with horses on it upstream. After just one day of that, you’re completely done, yet the real guys did this for three years every single day, going against the river. It’s complete madness.”
SIX WEEKS IN THE JUNGLE
Principal photography on Lost City of Z began in August 2015, in Northern Ireland’s breathtaking countryside. By October, however, Gray and his team had decamped for Santa Marta, Colombia, where cast and crew would endure a string of mishaps from flash floods and poisonous snakes to sweltering heat and humidity. The inhospitable rainforest environment helped cast and crew to channel Fawcett’s adventure. “It was hot, it was buggy, it was uncomfortable and I actually think that was a blessing,” recalls Grann, who visited the set in Colombia. “I think it was important to have some sense of what Fawcett actually experienced when they were performing these scenes.”
“It felt pretty sketchy at times,” admits Pattinson. “There were enormous spiders and snakes everywhere. And giant, gorgeous, bright blue frogs that will kill you. We were worried about Arbor Vipers that drop from trees and bite you in the face. After someone in the crew got bitten in the neck by a snake, they asked me and Charlie to go into virgin jungle with blunt machetes, and all the Colombians were telling us, ‘There’s a reason you don’t go off the path. The animals will leave you alone until you start smashing the jungle.”
AN EMOTIONAL JOURNEY
The travails the cast and crew endured seem only fitting for a film about a man driven to give up everything — the comforts of home, time with his family and, eventually, perhaps his life — in his quest for the truth about a lost civilization. “James presents this story so elegantly,” says Pattinson. “He’s able to make this completely alien landscape come alive in ways that I think audiences will really enjoy. Especially in the times we’re living in now, where it’s almost impossible to disconnect from anybody, the idea that there was this entire country you could explore and maybe find a secret city in the middle of the jungle — that makes for incredible adventure.”
You can read the full production notes here