Belfast Telegraph

Mystery of British explorer lost in Amazon to be filmed in Belfast... but can Sherlock star solve riddle?

By Lesley Houston

If you're planning to make a movie about a British explorer lost in the Amazonian jungle searching for a lost city, Northern Ireland would probably not be the first location on your mind.

But Brad Pitt's Plan B film company has decided that the story of explorer Percy Fawcett – who disappeared in the rainforest in 1925 –should start with a backdrop of Belfast.

The Lost City Of Z, starring Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, is expected to commence filming here early next year.

The film, also starring Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson, tells the tale of Fawcett, as penned by US author David Grann.

Fawcett and his son had been searching for evidence of an ancient lost city and their disappearance sparked searches by explorers and scientists alike.

It is thought that up to 100 people died or vanished without trace during ill-fated expeditions to discover Fawcett's fate or traces of the ancient civilisation he had been seeking to prove once existed.

Grann even made a trip to the Amazon, and claimed to find evidence of how Fawcett died, which he revealed in his 2009 account The Lost City Of Z: A Tale Of Deadly Obsession In The Amazon.

Unsurprisingly, Belfast won't actually be filling in for the jungle – director James Gray revealed in an interview that filming here will depict Fawcett's early 20th century London, with the Amazon scenes filmed in Colombia.

Preparation for shooting commences in September, with filming in Belfast starting next January.

Little Odessa director Gray said The Lost City Of Z will ask the same question all of his films ask: "What does it mean to be a human being?"

"The Lost City of Z is almost set on two different planets – the jungle and Victorian England," he said.

"What does it mean to be a civilized person? This to me is a profound question.

"What is progress? Is progress just economic growth? Or is it understanding what's around us? Is it growth of emotional intelligence or GDP growth?

"How do we contemplate new and old ideas of humanity? That to me is what Z is about."

Background

It's not just Game Of Thones that is shot here – Northern Ireland's film industry is on a roll. Last year Our Robot Overlords, starring Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, was shot here, while Universal Pictures shot Dracula Untold.

A digital feature based on the Halo video games franchise started shooting last month with Alien director Ridley Scott at the helm. Recent television hits shot here have included The Fall starring Jamie Dornan and Anderson again, as was In The Line Of Duty, with Adrian Dunbar.

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