The Lost City of Z's James Gray: 'The idea of 'winning' can be both very elusive and very dangerous'

Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, and Sienna Miller star in the tale of Percy Fawcett - whose efforts to seek out a lost Amazonian civilisation changed the face of history

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Within the annals of discovery, the city of 'Z' remains somewhat of a symbol of the unattained.

While Hiram Bingham's mission to bring the ruins of Machu Picchu to international attention in 1911 has since seen the site acquire global fame and iconisation, Percy Fawcett did not achieve such concrete success and his lost city remained undiscovered, after both he and his eldest son went missing in the Amazonian jungle in 1925.

Director James Gray, however, who takes on Fawcett's story in new film The Lost City of Z, starring the likes of Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, and Sienna Miller, does not see his subject's experiences within the Southern American continent as quite such a tragic tale.

"Success is definable in many different ways," Gray contemplates. "I don't view Percy as a failure. I think that, in some respects, he opened a door to a whole new way to look at Amazonia." He adds, "the older I've gotten, the more I've realised that this idea of 'winning' is both very elusive and also can be very dangerous."

In Gray's eyes, Fawcett successes were less material, as the film lays great emphasis on how his theories that 'Z' proved the existence of a complex civilisation in Amazonia, predating the first Western civilisations, did much to help shift the stubborn attitudes of Westernised anthropology. 

The Lost City Of Z - Trailer

An attitude reflected even in Gray's approach to the film, which sees him remodel the vastly Hollywoodised concept of Amazonian exploration into something far more realistic; as he admits, "I always viewed the adventure movie with both great respect, but also a little bit a trepidation, because when you exoticise there is a level of condescension that can sometimes come into play."

"So, I was anxious to remove that. And I kept repeating - there's a line in the film which I kept repeating in my mind as I made it - which is, 'we are all made of the same clay'... movies tend to be almost like bullets, where you have one idea that you need to pursue most more than anything. And that was the idea that I pursued."

Gray also spoke about the practical challenges of filming on location in the jungle, but also how its immersiveness aided the actors' in their performances: "you don't have to act that, it's awful". 

The Lost City of Z hits UK cinemas 24 March.