Film & TV

Director James Gray talks about ‘The Lost City of Z’

There’s not much hype around this film adaptation of the non-fiction book of the same name published in 2009, considering there are a lot of famous people in it: Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword), Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming), Sienna Miller (Live By Night, Burnt) and Robert Pattinson (well, it’s Robert Pattinson). The Lost City of may sound a lot like another version of Indiana Jones or even Journey to the Center of the Earth, and in terms of action, it probably is. But if the movie goes strictly by the book, literally, it should be more like a guide on surviving the uncharted Amazon.

Charlie Hunnam as British explorer Percy Fawcett in “The Lost City of Z”

One of the most intriguing non-fiction books I’ve read in years, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann tells the story of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who disappeared with his son in the Amazon while trying to look for an ancient lost city in 1925. David Grann actually went on the same journey in search for clues on Fawcett’s disappearance and proof of the lost city’s existence.

There’s a lot of surviving in it. Much like Palahniuk’s Survivor details life hacks such as cracking open a lobster or removing blood stains from porous surfaces, The Lost City of Z details Fawcett’s actual plan and how the jungle forces him to derail from it — discussing in amazing detail everything from what he brings with him on his journey to how he survives the strange insects of the Amazonian wild. New York Times’ Rich Cohen describes it as “a powerful narrative, stiff lipped and Victorian at the center, trippy at the edges, as if one of those stern men of Conrad had found himself trapped in a novel by García Márquez.”

Robert Pattinson, Charlie Hunnam
Tom Holland
Tom Holland

It’s true. Fawcett is a stubborn, determined fella who insists on finding the lost city as if the fate of the world depended on it, and this unfolds through the slow, meticulous narrative that romanticizes his quest. The film’s trailer doesn’t give much away, other than it’s threatening to be a sweeping synopsis of an otherwise epic tale. But as a fan of the book, the film (directed by James Gray, whom Brad Pitt introduced the book to) has a point of view that I intend to see: how cinema translates historical and scientific account into a visually pleasing and memorable piece of entertainment. They’ve already cast some of the most beautiful people in Hollywood (Hunnam reportedly passed on 50 Shades for Lost City and King Arthur, which he had to film simultaneously) already covering the visually arresting part. How it plans to impact the audience, is still a mystery. I’m almost scared that it wouldn’t be as educational (because for me this is one of the book’s strengths), but here’s hoping for the best.

Gray says, “I didn’t want it to be a biopic. I had wanted it to be a comment on an age, a comment not only on who we were then, but who we are now, because in a weird way, I feel like we fight the same battles. The extension of our sympathies is crucial to making some form of lasting impact.” If he is as compelling a director as he is an interview subject (watch the press conference below), all should be in order.

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