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Filmmaker Interview: James Gray

lost

The Lost City of Z is James Gray’s remarkable film adaptation of David Grann’s best-selling novel about Percy Fawcett (played by a revelatory Charlie Hunnam), a British explorer who disappeared with his son (Tom Holland) while searching for an ancient civilization in the jungles of South America in the early 20th century. Many critics have noted this thrilling adventure film is a “departure” for Gray, although the classicism of the filmmaking and the focus on family dynamics make it all of a piece with his earlier New York-set dramas from Little Odessa through The Immigrant. I recently sat down and spoke to Gray about his terrific new film, which opens in Chicago on Friday, April 21.

MGS: Like all of your work, this film is about family. The line early on about Percy Fawcett being “unfortunate in his choice of ancestors” is so funny and ironic…

JG: (laughing) That line always gets a big laugh, which I’ve never understood but I’m glad it does.

MGS: And the relationship between Percy and his son Jack at the end is really the heart of the film. I was blown away by the last 30 minutes and how emotional it was.

JG: That’s my favorite section of the movie. But you need the first hour and 50 minutes to get there. The thing is, I’ve had some people say that to me about the last 30 minutes and would I make the whole film like that? The problem is that it doesn’t work that way. Narrative, it’s sequential linkage. You have to build to it. If you did the whole movie like that, it wouldn’t have any meaning.

MGS: Don’t get me wrong: I loved the whole thing!

JG: No, no, I’m just explaining what I had always designed in that father-son relationship, which to me was always the key to it. That’s what made me want to make the movie. In the end, it’s a tricky thing because my own view is that if you read his obsession as repetitive then that means I failed or you’re not paying attention. Either one, I’m not sure. Because the nature of his obsession changes through the film. It starts, he has no medals. But after that, it becomes a kind of thing where he has to ratify his exalted position with that other guy, Mr. James Murray (Angus Macfayden), who comes along and turns out to be a catastrophe. So rank and honor and glory don’t really mean much after a while. So what’s left? He’s got this kid who he really didn’t spend any time with. The episodic nature of the film was meant to emphasize these chunks of time that he had missed with his wife and children. And, in the end, I didn’t see it as a tragedy because he achieved some measure of transcendence. His son, I’m sure, resented the years he missed but in the end he went along with him and they had seen a part of the world that virtually no one from Western Europe or North America saw or sees today. And that’s not, by the way, Sienna Miller’s story. Sienna Miller’s story is tragic because she was left at home. She wanted to go and she was a woman and she couldn’t. So I saw the film as interesting for story purposes because it’s her tragedy and their transcendence.

MGS: When I think of filmmakers going into the jungle to make epic adventure films, I think about stories of shooting a million feet of film and then finding the movie in the editing room. Were there a lot of scenes left on the cutting-room floor or did you have to be shrewder about only shooting what you needed?

JG: Yeah, we didn’t do that. The age of being able to do that is over. There’s such a level of control that the machine has put on you now, with completion bonds and the way the movies have to be financed, that the ability to be backstopped by Columbia or United Artists, in the case of Lean and Coppola, is over. You have to stick to a plan in a very detailed way. Let me say that in some ways shooting a million feet of film, going a little bonkers and all that, lends itself to a very fantastical, almost sensate experience. It changes the way the movie feels. And you become a different person – Francis Coppola was in the jungle for a year, which I can’t even understand – and you become a different person over that year. And knowing that you don’t have that as part of your weaponry, it has to take on a different feel. Now may I say I think that if I had approached the movie the way that Francis did Apocalypse or Herzog did Aguirre, the means of production being different, I think I would’ve made a really bad and fairly racist movie. Which is not to say they did. They didn’t. Herzog’s Aguirre, for example, is about a man who goes to the jungle – a conquistador – and through greed and megalomania, goes insane. In the case here, I felt that if Fawcett became a madman in the jungle, that would’ve really sucked because the movie wasn’t about that. It was about his confronting, engaging the indigenous peoples of South America. So if he goes mad confronting and engaging the indigenous peoples, that’s a racist concept. I’ve been asked, “Did you think of making him go crazier?” I feel like that’s a covertly racist idea because it means that the viewer cannot accept any sense of “normal” from the indigenous – and that’s pretty dangerous, and a very common error, I think. My own feeling is that the style of production, which you asked about, that this kind of lengthy process where you shoot a million feet of film, lends itself to another kind of filmmaking. And in some ways I think it helped me that I had to stay in a measure of control.

MGS: I’m so glad you shot this on film. In contrast to digital, the texture of 35mm is so thick and moist, which seems especially appropriate for the jungle setting.

JG: What you’re talking about, whether you know it or not, there’s a term for it called temporal resolution. When you say “thicker,” I think it’s very interesting that you use that word because with the digital image you’ve got essentially a grid. The image is made of pixels. It’s a fixed grid. Frame 1, 2, 3, 4: the pixels are in the same position. With film, it’s made of grain. The position of each grain changes from frame to frame. So what you are essentially looking at is a new image every time a frame comes on the screen. Your brain obviously doesn’t process each image individually. It can’t. That’s called persistence of vision. But it adds up and, unconsciously, it makes a difference. So the analog aspect of film, when you say “thicker,” what you’re actually talking about is this idea of temporal resolution where each frame is a different image.

MGS: I wanted to ask about Charlie Hunnam. I know he replaced Benedict Cumberbatch, which is hard for me to wrap my brain around because their energies and their personas seem so different. Did that casting change cause you to make any adjustments in terms of how you decided to portray the character?

JG: It always has to because you can’t make a movie thinking that you have Jimmy Stewart when you want Marlon Brando. And you can’t make the same movie with Charlie Chaplin that you do with Robert Mitchum. It’s a different language. I didn’t know who Charlie Hunnam was, really. I mean, I knew who he was but I didn’t know his work except for Sons of Anarchy. When his name first came up, I said, “I would never cast him.” Because I thought he was some California biker guy with tattoos. And then the producers at Plan B said, “No, no, no, he’s from Newcastle.” So he came over for dinner and I quite liked him. And what I saw in him was a shocking parallel with Fawcett, which is that he was the same age, had the same – not inferiority complex, but a real sense of striving, that he had not done the quality work that he wanted to do, and he had not been able to communicate that to himself and others. And I saw that as directly related to Fawcett. Benedict would’ve focused on more – I don’t want to say “odd,” but the iconoclastic qualities of Fawcett. Charlie almost feels like a swashbuckling actor from the ‘30s, so you use that. You use the weapons you’ve got. You’ve got this handsome, swashbuckling figure, then you use that. If you have this interesting, odd, great movie face with this (does Benedict Cumberbatch impression) “deep baritone,” then you use that. I suspect that Fawcett, with Cumberbatch in it, would’ve been an odder, darker movie. I don’t know if better or worse, just different.

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

40 responses to “Filmmaker Interview: James Gray

  • The Best Films of the Year So Far | White City Cinema

    […] “Many critics have noted this thrilling adventure film is a ‘departure’ for Gray, although the classicism of the filmmaking and the focus on family dynamics make it all of a piece with his earlier New York-set dramas.” Interview with director James Gray here. […]

  • My Top 50 Films of 2017 | White City Cinema

    […] review here. 12. The Lost City of Z (Gray, USA). Interview with director James Gray here. 13. Lover for a Day (Garrel, France) 14. The Florida Project (Baker, USA) 15. The Ornithologist […]

    • Mark Regalado

      James Gray’s film, “The Lost City of Z”, presents the unique story of a man, Percy Fawcett who sets out to restore honor in his family name, but after his goal is attained, a new passion for adventure and exploration leads him down the path of obsession and death.

      When Gray first introduces Percy, we see this young soldier attending a party filled with people of noble descent. Earlier in that scene, he expressed his discontent to his wife on how he would be one of the few soldiers there with no metals on his jacket, attending the party. At a time and place where class meant a lot Percy was hopeful of getting a chance to dine with the higher ranked officers to elevate his class but because, “he’s been rather unfortunate in his choice of ancestors” he never got the chance. Through Percy’s journeys, Gray presents a very different man at the end. Percy was acknowledged as a respected man as he gets off the boat from his first expedition to South America. He became a decorated war veteran and he received a high honor at his member society club. Although this is what Percy wanted in the beginning, visually Gray allows us to see the tolls Percy has gone through. With a now wrinkled face, limping around in his cane, we are supposed to ask if it was even worth sacrificing all the time Percy had spent away from his family. Percy’s youth has faded and so have years. Everytime Percy returned from an expedition it seems that he had a new kid, and was meeting them for the first time. I think Gray is trying to emphasize the importance of family and wants us to appreciate life with our loved ones. Often times because of work and friends we get distracted and lose sight to the ones waiting for us back home. In the end, I feel the worst for Percy’ wife Nina. She never really got a chance to spend quality years with her husband and in the end her oldest son goes off to South America with Percy, where they are never seen again. Here Gray is showing us how much mothers endure for the love of their husband and children. I’m sure Gray’s personal experiences with family influenced the way he wrote and directed the film

  • Zophia Ruetsche

    As Gray mentioned, the developing relationship between Jack and his father, Percy Fawcett is vital to the story-line of the film. As adventure films often go, the main character of Percy is automatically put on a heroic pedestal. However, through the character of Jack, we see a much difference side to the life of Percy Fawcett, one that exposes the flaws within the Fawcett family dynamic due to Percy’s Amazonian adventure. Our understanding of Percy’s internal conflict, that of whether to follow the City of Z or follow the duty of being a father, is strengthened as we witness the remarks Jack makes in regards to his father’s absence. The resolution of this clash due to Jack’s choosing to join his father on the journey meaningfully combines the focuses of this film – that being, not only themes of courage and determination, but also the professional and personal sacrifices that come with having a family.

  • Jeremy Sebastian

    I liked Gray’s thoughts about how a narrative is a sequential process. When I think about the last 30 minutes of the film, where Percy and his son Jack are taken off by the indigenous peoples, I would have not appreciated their touching dialogue if the first chunk of the film was removed. This reminds me of how exposition and character development really makes viewers invested in a movie. If we neglect the beginning chunk of the film and jump right away into the powerful bond between the father and son being carried away by an indigenous tribe, I would not cared about the characters or it would have left me confused about the significance of their relationship.

    Another part I liked about this movie was it took its time for the viewers to get familiar with Percy’s life journey, we get to see his interaction with his wife, the friendships and conflicts with the RGS and people he went on the expeditions with. Eventually, we saw how his going on expeditions and abandoning his son Jack really took its effect. But when we get to that part of the story where he, reunited with his son, we get to see that relationship become renewed.

    Overall, I liked James Gray’s approach to the slowly investing in the story’s characters, societal circumstances, and how it all built up around Percy’s individual journey of growing as a person. It was more authentic than the explorer/adventure/action
    genre I see in Indiana Jones. It really showed me the clash within Percy’s mind of his fantasy of going into the jungle to find a lost civilization as well as not so pleasant realities of life with family, friendships, and tragic losses along the way. I think he discovered what he truly matters most for him to pursue, his family. And he saw it through his son.

    • Sebin Puthenthara S

      Funny that you mention Indiana Jones, as Fawcett is considered an inspiration for the character of Indiana Jones. Also, Fawcett makes an appearance in one of the Indiana Jones stories.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Jeremy, I like your take on the film’s “reality vs. inner life” theme, which I believe is an elaboration of your remarks in class. 10/10

  • Neil Chisholm

    James Gray has created a solid historical adventure film that is not flashy but sober, serious, and compelling. He directs plainly but with some artistic flourishes, and has written a script that sounds correct for this very snobby English society, not easy to do for an American. “My experience with you, sir, has taught me that a man’s rank does not always equal his mettle,” as Fawcett says to the bloated bag of swill, James Murray. It had to be very arduous to film in the steamy rivers of Columbia, with all the unfriendly animal life therein. The portrayal of the dark and gloomy halls of England contrast with the over-rich vegetation and gooky black mud of the jungle. The inclusion of an opera house in the middle of it all is an irony worthy of Fellini. How Fawcett was able to love the jungle must speak for the daring of English explorers. The ending scenes with Fawcett and his son as unwilling guests of the Indians brought to mind “Apocalypse Now,” with Capt. Willard surrounded by the natives in a surrealistic nocturnal village lit by many torches, a place that seems to exist outside of Western notions of time and space.

  • sdecen

    James Gray’s film The Lost City of Z was a story of desire, morality, and judgment. While it can easily become a heroic journey, it does more by exposing us to critical moments of judgement and by giving us a taste of life in the 1900’s. By doing so, the film doesn’t center on only the main character, but it ends up revolving around every character within the story. This remains possible through Gray’s portrayal and direction of the film.

    For one, this film was produced in an “episodic” nature. According to Gray, it’s episodic nature helped to emphasize “the chunks of time that he had missed with his wife and children.” This was an interesting choice because every time we are brought back to England, we see a difference of character within everyone. This not only brought an emphasis of time and change but also a chance to see internal growth within the main character. The fact that this film was produced in a very long time period creates a more realistic approach to transcendence compared to other movie adaptions in which transcendence is usually shown within a few couple years or months.

    Another interesting choice was Gray’s build up towards the end of the movie which is said to be his favorite part. Gray mentions that narrative is a sequential narrative, and if you based the movie solely on the last 30 minutes, “it would have no meaning.” This is a very admiring choice as he definitely made a piece that carried a lot of meaning. We get a film not only based on a heroic journey, but one that can place the themes of tragedy, transcendence, and morality all in one.

  • Sebin Puthenthara S

    James Gray’s ‘The Lost City of z’ is a Drama/Action-Adventure movie about the British explorer Percy Fawcett, based on David Grann’s book ‘The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon’. Percy Fawcett, the protagonist of the story is a character with many remarkable traits. He is a character who is striving for glory, has a family that he cares about yet sometimes puts down in his search for glory, and someone who didn’t have a traditional racist way of thinking indigenous people of South America are subhuman and incapable of having a civilized culture. The way this movie was written and made is a good example of making the right choices in storytelling through a visual medium, and balancing storyline elements in it.

    The choice of picking Charlie Hunnam as the actor to play Fawcett changed the primary focus of the movie and the way the story was adapted. Charlie has the physique and the face of a more traditional heroic character, while the original choice of Benedict Cumberbatch has more of an “odd” face and acting range of a traditionally trained stage actor (which Cumberbatch is). This leads to the focus changing more to the adventurous aspect of the story, and the family-man side of Fawcett, from the “iconoclastic” qualities of Fawcett, as Gray calls it. The latter might have dived deeper into the conflicts with the European aristocrats and Elites who believed the Indigenous people were “subhuman” and capable of a culture that’s equally as impressive as any modern culture of their time. This subject is touched upon and understood by the viewer, but it is not the primary focus of the story.

    James Gray has adapted the movie in a balanced way that it is a perfect mixture of drama and adventure – two broad categories of story elements. The family dynamics and the racism can be considered to be part of the drama element and the expedition and the journey and exploration can be part of the adventure element. Throughout the movie, these elements both become prominent and change back into the other in a graceful manner. For example, the scene in which the crew meets the indigenous people on the river and one arrow pierces through the book Fawcett is holding up, almost killing him if it wasn’t for the book. This then jumps right into the drama by having Fawcett have his life flash in front of him, and think of his family, showing the viewer a flashback to times with the family.
    Then there is the balance between the transcendence and tragedy at the end of the story. Fawcett and his son achieves glory by reaching their destination or dying trying (it’s very ambiguous), while his wife Nina Fawcett has a tragic ending as she lost her husband and son to the jungle and not knowing what happened to them. The viewer is also left with a beautiful ending, up to the interpretation of the viewer.

  • Nick Haynes

    Two of the major themes in ‘The Lost City of Z’ are adventure and family and Gray does an excellent job painting us a picture of them. I very much like what he said in the interview about narrative; You can’t just cut out the 30 most rewarding minutes of a film and expect them to be as flavorful without everything that prefaces them. Adventure and family aren’t just about where you’re going, how you got to where you are is just as important. We only truly understand the relationship between Percy and Jack on their final adventure after experiencing the hardships they both endured over the rest of the film. This is an example of finely crafted world building.

    In addition to this, I enjoyed how the ending of the film and the fate of Jack and Percy was left up in the air. It’s originally posed that they are being carried off to their deaths after being captured. However, we’re never shown their true fate and Nina even reveals that Percy sent back his compass. In the end, the viewers are left with varying opinions on what could have happened to them which could potentially reflect how we each view the idea of adventure itself.

    Personally, world building is actually one of my favorite aspects of what goes into a film. Gray does an excellent job with it and I actually enjoyed the first half just as much as the ending, if not more. Similar like Percy, I was excited to keep looking deeper into the unknowns of the Amazon one more time.

  • Alex Panettieri

    I agree with James Gray’s idea that while the movie was adventurous and gratifying for Percy, it was tragic for Nina. While you are watching the film, you do not realize exactly how much time is passing by as the men are traveling through the amazon. Once Percy comes home, each time he has a new child and that gives the viewer an understanding of how long he was gone for. Each time he leaves the viewer can see the pain in Nina’s eyes because she too wants to go with Percy, but instead stays behind. The last scene where the viewer can watch Nina walk outside through the mirror into the jungle in a pivotal moment. Her life has always and will continue to be about the jungle. Her husband was constantly leaving and then eventually her husband and son never returned. Her heart remains there because they never came back to her.

  • Mark Badel

    Reading this interview, I find it very interesting to see a little peak into the way James Gray’s mind works. His response to the question about the million feet of film got me thinking into how exactly he creates his movies. He mentions that if he had just shot absolutely everything and then gone back to the editing room to create the movie, that it would not have turned out the same. I would assume that if he had a vision in his head on how the movie was meant to be turned out, that he could create that vision in the editing room but this is not the case. If he recorded everything in a very chaotic way then the final result will be chaotic itself, no matter what is done in post. Almost as if how the movie is shot is what makes the art. Perhaps a more controlled way of shooting also makes the film more genuine, because less editing would have to be done and the story would be told in the performance of the actors and not in the skill of the video editors.

    I also found it interesting when Gray talks about the choice of actors. I would think that as long as the actor was good, they could play any role given to them and the result would be fairly the same. However, Gray mentions that different actors would bring out different qualities of the character. It is amazing how much depth was in his thinking when casting his characters. The way he puts it, the actor was not molding themselves to the character, but the character was molding themselves to the actor. When combining Cumberbatch with Fawcett, it would create an entirely different reaction when compared to combining Hunnam with Fawcett. The character would show an entirely different side of his personality when played by a different actor, so much so that the movie itself would feel different.

  • Charles Andre Castro

    First of all, I liked the movie because these days have been showing movies that are all happy endings. People wanted to always have happy endings in a movie who doesn’t want that, right?

    at the beginning of the interview it was all about the father Percy and his son Jack relationship. in my opinion I wanted more scene about them to compensate the love have Jack lost because of how many years of exploring the city of Z about these indigenous people instead of staying at their home taking care of Fawcett’s children.

    Gray’s imagination is above and beyond to think about the “measure of control” to make Fawcett crazier but instead he used that control to make things better. Control that the viewers who’ll ask more questions such what happened to Jack and Percy? and did Percy’s wife went there to the jungle to find them?

    Overall it was a great movie James Gray did amazing for this movie. at the beginning of the movie, it was slowly phased from introducing the characters, hunting, his wife, and jack, to an opportunity for Fawcett out of the blue for a mission to Bolivia to explore, learn about indigenous people and study about the city he called “city of Z”

  • Jonathan Tapper

    James Gray’s movie, The Lost City of Z, is a story of a person. Percy Fawcett is not depicted as a larger than life figure, rather he is shown as a man who is obsessed. Through the movie we see the the toll it takes on his family, and how this obsession of his is tearing his family apart and his reconciliation with his son. As James says “But you need the first hour and 50 minutes to get there.” We watch Percy’s rise and fall, and then his reconciliation with his son. We see how his obsession with the jungle causes strain on his family through his interactions with his wife, and his son. Without this first hour and 50 minutes, I feel we would have lost much of what drives Percy throughout the film. The last 30 minutes show huge character development for both Percy and his son, but without the first section of the movie, none of it would make sense. The primary conflict is in Percy himself, as he isolates himself from his family. In the last 30 minutes, we see the resolution of this conflict – as Percy reconciles with his son, whom he had been so distant from in his son’s childhood.

  • Carli Romanek

    I really liked this film because it emphasizes that there is always a way to fix broken family relationships and realize that there is much more to life than holding onto resentments. At the beginning, we see Percy Fawcett have a distant and anger filled relationship with his son because he feels as if his dad abandoned him and his family because he is always going on a different call of duty. His anger was definitely warranted because he never seemed to include his family and take them on his missions. It was always such a secretive thing that he never included his family in. Toward the end, his son realizes that his dad left because it was his job and he was trying to provide for and take care of his family. This was huge because you see them start to have an amazing father-son dynamic and it is like they were picking up and starting from scratch in order to get to know each other and there was something very endearing and sweet about that.

    Another thing I thought was very interesting about this film was the fact that his wife was so supportive and gave him unwavering loyalty despite the fact that he was never around and didn’t even know his 4-year-old child. Many women would have left because most people would not want to deal with being second priority to their husband’s job, but she also had the mindset that her husband was doing this for a reason and this was his life work.

    Lastly, I love how dark and mysterious the scenes were, and especially the parts in the jungle. They were very realistic and it was very interesting to see throughout the movie.

  • Kenta Kume

    James Gray’s “The Lost city of Z” is a story told about Percy Fawcett, and his story of exploration and adventure deep in the jungles of south america. Other than plenty of adventure and action, the films also explores themes of colonialism, racism and family, but to me the film also seemed to explore this theme of what it means to be a man and a father. Like any other man at the time, Percy Fawcett wanted to achieve greatness, and so while he was reluctant at first to accept the mission he did so and soon after his first visit he begins to become obsessed with the jungles of Bolivia and the ancient civilizations that await him there. He begins to lose touch with his family, spending less time with them and doesn’t seem to care about them at all, especially his children, as evident by the scene where the eldest son gets mad at him for leaving for so long and Percy slaps him. This leaves the family split in a difference of opinions, the children mad at Percy for leaving them for so long to pursue his own selfish goals, while Percy is frustrated because he is doing all of this also for them, because it’s part of his job and he wants to provide for his family. This family strain is worsened when he says hes going back and when his wife also wants to come, he denies her and says that the jungle is not a place for a woman. It’s hard to say whether he really does care about his wife and her well-being and his overall family’s well-being by going to the jungles of Bolivia alone multiple times, or if he’s just simply obsessed with his mission of discovering these ancient civilizations that he believes exist. To me, this shows that a man basically only has himself and whatever mission, life goals that he has. Percy is a prime example of a character like that he devotes himself to his mission and basically doesn’t care about anything else, even his friends and family. This theme is explored with his eldest son also later on in the film. The eldest son grows significantly through the film and at first, opposes his father, but after seeing his father come back from war, sympathizes with him and even cries with him. Afterwards, he is seen to start training, and desperately persuades his mother to let him go to the jungle with his father. When they leave, you can see the father greeting the younger brother and sister goodbye, and I saw the younger brother going through the motions that the older brother did at first, that of frustration with the fact that his father is leaving him. While I could relate to how Percy felt and the fact that he wanted to pursue his obsession at this point, it was also a depressing film to watch when you realize how many people he affected along the way, especially his wife who was alone for who knows how many years and by the end of the film, having lost her son and husband, was also now obsessed with the jungles of south america and the mysteries it holds.

  • Kevin Sudie

    The most interesting part of this interview in my opinion is the part where Gray defends his main character from critics saying he could have “gone crazier”. If he had done so, the movie would appear to have more racist undertones because it makes the jungle and indigenous people seem savage. My favorite parts of the movie were when Percy attempted and succeeded at befriending the various groups in the jungle. There were a few instances where they were being shot at on the boat by arrows and they were not returning fire. At first I thought they forgot to bring guns, but in fact they simply were not using them. I believe they only fired a warning shot once. Percy and his crew’s respect for the jungle and its people were a fine example of globalization throughout the film and one of the few redeeming qualities of Percy, who seems to care more about his relationship with jungle tribes than with his own children.

  • Robert Shaf

    I really liked how Gray mentioned how the ending wasn’t necessarily a tragedy for Percy and his son, but it was for Sienna Miller. Percy and Jack got to explore a part of the world that was never seen before by people from Europe. However, it was a tragedy from Sienna Miller’s point of view because she never got to see the jungle when she said she wanted to go and she also lost her husband and son, which she has a hard time coming to terms with. This is very interesting because it all depends on whose point of view you look to see very different stories. There’s not many movies that show various character’s stories and I think Gray did a great job at showing all the various viewpoints from that family. I also really enjoyed how the movie ended up being about family. I agree with Gray that you can’t just start the movie out with that theme because it would lose a lot of meaning. Percy’s character really changed from wanting to be famous and known to trying to spend time with his family, especially Jack. Going into the movie, I thought the majority of it was going to be about how everyone in Europe doesn’t want to believe that there was an ancient civilization in the Amazon. That turned out to be a smaller part and the theme changed to Percy trying to have a better relationship with his son. Lastly, I thought it was interesting when Gray discussed how casting Charlie Hunnam would have been different from casting Benedict Cumberbatch. Gray said it would have been a very different movie if Benedict Cumberbatch was Percy, but he doesn’t know if it would have been better or worse. This probably happens all the time in the movie industry where actors are recast and it’s cool how directors, like Gray in this case, work around that and still have a great character.

  • Athena Rodriguez

    What I found most interesting about this film was the era it was in and how the film evolved as it progressed. I am used to seeing Hollywood films meaning that there is usually a bad guy and the good guy who saves the day. Where as in this film it was very different. Not only was this film about family but it was also about discovering the unknown. This film was filled with morals in various aspects. Seeing this film and the way it was directed made me see and appreciate films from all over the world. It made me realize that not only America can do great films. I hadn’t given any other film/director to see what they can do on screen and now I feel open to see any sort of film. I am beyond happy I decided to take this course because it makes me appreciate past stories that were once true as well as the world cinema. What I enjoyed the most about this film was the seeing how the relationship between Jack and Percy evolved throughout the film. It started out cold and distant. As it evolved, resentment came into play from Jack’s side towards his father seeing that he was never around for his family. However, as the movie went on I started seeing the change in Jack towards his father and in my opinion I believe Jack came to a realization of how his life had been without a father and decided to be the bigger person in trying to amend the relationship his father had broken between them from the beginning. I loved how James Gray decided to play out this film and who specifically played each character role. I also liked seeing a film with completely different screens as James Gray mentioned that as your seeing the movie you do not realize the changes in the screen and that there was constantly different screens being played. However, I did realized and payed close attention given that I had not seen a film like this. As the film came to an end I realized that as I was seeing it I could not stop comparing this film to a Hollywood like type of film. It was an honor seeing this extraordinary film.

  • Niket Patel

    First of all, I found this interview to be very eye opening in terms of the thought process behind the development of a film. The ability to balance certain components/appeals of a film can be extremely challenging as James Gray explained. Transitions within the film from a stable environment to a adventures setting made the audience sense various moods. It was shocking to know the reason why James Gray focused on the last thirty minutes of the movie to heavily concentrate on emotional appeals.

    Aside from the overall development, Gray’s interpretation of assembling a sequence of events really showed the importance in building a character. The evolution of characters throughout the film was very important because it allowed viewers to take a specific stance.

    Lastly, the adjustment to scenery and transitions made the film very interactive. The audience was able to contract a different feel towards the movie. Whether it was an action scene in the amazon jungle or a bedroom argument, the material feed into a chronological piece that exemplified the meaning of relationships. Characters such as Percy had several shifts in their motives and it flourished the flow of the entire film.

  • Sana Lalani

    I don’t think I would have the film portrayed any other way. Having the first half of the first part of the film was essential to slowly develop Percy and Jack’s relationship through the years he had been gone. It was also essential to show how much Percy struggled with choosing his obsession with the unknown and his family. If the movie was solely focused on Percy’s and Jack’s relationship then the viewer wouldn’t really understand where Percy was coming from and his desire to fulfill his ambition. I think the ending showed that Percy and Jack were the true winners. Although they died, it showed that they were at peace especially Percy. It could’ve been the drug, but Percy seemed so calm as if he was dying happily. He was content with what he had found and accomplished even if the result wasn’t perfect. What I found intriguing was what led Jack into changing his perspective of hating his father for always leaving them to find this unknown city. The film doesn’t really address why Jack turned against But that’s what I liked about the film. The film does not give you the direct answers and leaves most of the gaps open for your interpretation and imagination.

    Throughout the film, I tried picturing Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of Percy Fawcett. I found it incredibly difficult because from looking at Benedict Cumberbatch’s previous works like “Sherlock” and “Dr. Strange” as his roles were very serious and mysterious in my perspective. Therefore, I feel like Percy’s whole persona would change. I liked how James Gray said changing the actor would be like a different language. To me, that is the best way to describe it because each actor has their own aura and technique in the way they act which can completely shift the role in a different direction. After seeing, Charlie Hunnam’s performance as Percy in the film, I found him irreplaceable. I could see Robert Pattinson’s and Tom Holland’s characters be with different actors, but not Charlie Hunnam’s. Charlie was able to provide the balance at portraying personal ambition without directly showing aspects of selfishness. He was able to balance the idea of struggling to sacrifice his family’s happiness for his own. With Charlie, I feel like the concept of love was prevalent when he thought back onto his family while in the jungle. Although it was sad that he had to go through such anguish, it also pulled at the heartstrings because you could tell he really loved and missed his family. If Benedict Cumberbatch had done this, I think it wouldn’t have been as loving and even more sad and melancholy. However, that is my opinion and perception of the actors.

  • Abbas Jafri

    I think charlie Hunnam was the perfect fit to play Percy Fawcett. His rugged style bring the rawness into the character of a middle aged military officer, an adventurist and explorist. Cumberbatch might have been too smooth for the character. The movie seemed as two parallel stories playing as one. On one side we saw the passion and ambition of a determined Percy Fawcett, driven by an obsession alike force to achieve his goal. On the other hand we see him abandoning his family in the chase of his quest. It shows the struggles and the dramatic effects on his life occurring because of his absence. To me it look like James Gray trying to say that everything in life come along with hardships and these people are just like us normal folks who decide to do something great in their lives and also pay the price for it. But it does not mean that we should give up on the goals that we really want to achieve in our lives. We just need to find the right balance.The cinematography and vibrant selection of colors with the contrast of dark and dim portrays both sides of the story perfectly. The movie also highlight an important fact that how do we think about outside world based upon what we have been told by others rather than learning about it or experiencing it by ourselves.

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