'The Lost City Of Z' Tells The True Story Of What Might Have Happened To Percival Fawcett

Amazon Studios/Bleecker Street

One of April's new movies tells a terrifying tale of exploration in the 1920s. Starring Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, and Sienna Miller, The Lost City of Z tells the true story of Percival Fawcett (Hunnam), a British explorer obsessed with finding a mythological Amazonian city. The real Percival disappeared looking for the City of Z, and what happened to him has remained a mystery for decades. Because so much of Fawcett's journey is unknown, the movie's retelling of it a mix of fact and fiction, but it all makes for a compelling tale.

The Lost City of Z isn't based on primary sources from Fawcett himself. Instead, the film is adapted from The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession In the Amazon, a nonfiction book by David Grann published in 2009. The book attempted to retrace Fawcett's final expedition, in which Fawcett and his eldest son, Jack (played by Tom Holland), traveled to Brazil in search of an ancient civilization and city he called "Z." The expedition left in 1925, and Fawcett and his son were never heard from again. Grann attempted to find a trace of Fawcett in the Amazon, following the path Fawcett had taken on previous expeditions in the country, but he never found any concrete proof that Fawcett had reached his destination.

The Lost City of Z is, thus, incapable of being an exact true story, as no one knows what really happened to Fawcett during his last expedition. It's something director James Gray embraced. As he explained in an interview with LA Weekly, Gray felt Fawcett's final journey "had to be treated as a beautiful dream." Gray, who also wrote the screenplay for the film, took many liberties when crafting the story for the screen. For example, the jungle explored by Fawcett became not necessarily representative of reality, but of Fawcett's own psyche. "We started by looking at the jungle as a projection of protagonist Percy Fawcett's desire, not as necessarily a tangible adventure movie," Gray wrote in the Nov/Dec 2016 issue of Film Comment.

Thus The Lost City of Z is both based on a true story and based on a fantasy. Much like Fawcett's city of Z, the film presents an interpretation of what might have existed, or happened, in Brazil.