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PopPolitics: James Gray on How Today’s Rise of Trump Plays into ‘Lost City of Z’

Variety logo Variety 4/15/2017 Ted Johnson
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James Gray, director of “The Lost City of Z,” which opens this weekend, said that what first drew him to the story was its undercurrent of class striving.

Set in Edwardian England, it focuses on Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), whose family name has been tarnished by his father’s misdeeds, and he sets out to become a world famous explorer. His obsession becomes the search for a legendary lost civilization in the Amazon, which he never finds.

The project went through years in development, and Gray says that his perspective even changed.

“Then as the movie took a long time get made, what I began to see is the encroaching nationalism and the creeping racism, really, and I decided to delve into that as much as I could for the movie, because it was certainly there — Edwardian England, as it is today,” he says, referring to the rise of Donald Trump, Brexit, and other movements.

In the movie, Fawcett is viewed as somewhat of an outlier in thinking that the indigenous populations of the Amazon were anything but savages, and certainly not capable of an advanced civilization. Gray said that in making the movie, though, what he wanted to avoid any storyline of the white man as the “noble savage,” or that the indigenous people depend “on the white, blonde haired European for their existence.”

“What I tried to do was treat the indigenous people in the film as entirely independent of the white man’s involvement,” he tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM.

Gray said that for him, typically “making the movies about what is wrong with the world is a great motivator,” so “The Lost City of Z,” a story set a century ago, was a bit unusual for him.

A challenge was that the movie doesn’t end with the discovery of the lost city. Based on David Grann’s book, “The Lost City of Z,” it shows how Fawcett, on his last expedition with his son, disappeared into the Amazon in 1925 and was never heard from again.

Listen below:

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“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays from 2-3 pm ET/11-noon PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.

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