After his split from model Bella Hadid, actor Robert Pattinson has set his sights on a new star: himself. The “Twilight” hunk is teaming up with production company XYZ Films to create a church-themed movie that will be loosely based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Friedrich Durstler.
Set in the 1890s, “The Lost City of Z” will follow the story of a young German explorer who sets off to find the fabled City of Z, leaving his pregnant wife back home. Along the way he crosses paths with a dangerous cast of characters —including a religious cult led by a charismatic Englishwoman—and is forced to fight for his life.
The film will be released on February 23, 2020 — just in time for Black History Month.
Why A Church-Themed Movie?
According to a source, the project has been in the pipeline for a while and is “likely to be Pattinson’s next film.”
The movie will reportedly see the actor playing a character based on Leopold von Sternberg, a famous German film director and collector of pornographic films and other vintage erotica. (The character is named Leopold in the movie, but von Sternberg preferred to be called by his first name.)
The director of “The Lost City of Z,” Bo Widerberg, described the project as an opportunity to explore “the dark side of human nature and history.”
“It’s such a grand and sweeping thing to set a story of intrigue and adventure in the middle of the Wild West,” Widerberg said. “But we’re not setting it in the Wild West — we’re setting it in the 19th century. That means there’s a lot more leeway when it comes to costumes and sets.”
In an interview with Variety, Widerberg called working with Pattinson a “dream come true” and described the project as “eerily spiritual.”
“The way that [Pattinson] works, he takes things very seriously and puts a lot of thought into each little moment,” Widerberg said. “That’s why I felt like he was such a good choice for this — because he takes his acting seriously and doesn’t just kind of throw himself into roles. He really thought about this one.”
While “The Lost City of Z” won’t be the first time Pattinson has tackled religion (his character Jekyll in the 2013 film “The Rover” is loosely based on the real-life English clergyman Robert Hugh Benson), it will be his first feature-length film to center on religious themes.
An Allegory For The Whole World
Some critics have compared the movie to “The Lord of the Rings” because of the presence of recurring fantasy sequences. (“The Lost City of Z” was first optioned in 2014 and was one of George R. R. Martin’s inspirations when adapting “A Game of Thrones.”)
Both “The Lost City of Z” and Martin’s “A Game of Thrones” are books about a journey that evolves from innocence to experience, exploring the themes of good versus evil and humanity’s struggle for survival. (It should be noted that neither work is in any way affiliated with or endorsed by its eponymous author.)
Like Martin’s novels, Widerberg’s “The Lost City of Z” is rich in allegories, symbolism, and metaphorical devices. In the book, the City of Z is a stand-in for human civilization; its discovery would serve as a vindication of the human spirit and allow for both enlightenment and personal growth. (The film will depict a brutal clash between science and religion, with von Sternberg as the ultimate skeptic.)
According to Widerberg, there are numerous nods to art and literature in the story, from the works of H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” (The German-born director is a big fan of Hammer Film Studios’ 1931 film “Dracula,” which was widely considered to be the studio’s best work. He even put a premium on imitating the look of the Dracula costume in the film’s sets.)
The director also cited “The Book of Kells,” the 9th-century illustrated gospel book created by the monks of St. Columba’s Monastery in the city of Dublin, as an influence. (The Abbey Theatre, where Widerberg is based, is famously associated with the work.)
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Pattinson said he drew inspiration from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, whose works include “The Gay Science,” “The Genealogy of Morals,” and “The Will to Power.” (Though he didn’t name names, EW identified Pattinson as the source of inspiration for the German philosopher.)
Nietzsche’s philosophy, which promotes the free spirit and individualism, can be seen as a rebuttal to the Christian belief in eternal damnation. If “The Lost City of Z” is anything, it’s an argument for the existence of good — even in the darkest of places and among the most corrupt of characters.
The book has had something of a resurgence in recent years, outselling James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” to become the best-selling fiction title of the 21st century. (In 2019 alone, it reportedly sold over 1.5 million copies in the US.)
Action-adventure, fantasy, and romance
While “The Lost City of Z” will serve as a dramatic departure from Pattinson’s usual type of films, it will still find him in a pitched battle on a grand stage, surrounded by beautiful women. (The former “Twilight” heartthrob will reportedly be accompanied by several wives and daughters.)
According to a press release, the project is “an exciting historical adventure [that] will appeal to fans of Patrick Robinson, Michael Crichton, and Ernest Hemingway, among others.” (Pattinson will next be seen in Luc Besson’s “The Billionaire’s Vinegar,” which is due out next year.)
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Besson said he drew inspiration from the “sense of excitement” that comes with a new discovery. (Besson made his name directing big-budget action movies before venturing into the world of church-themed moviemaking.)
“I love history and stories about the past, so I thought it would be cool to do a movie about an explorer going on an expedition,” Besson said. “[The movie is] set in 1899, so it’s really the start of the 20th century. We don’t really know a whole lot about communication and transportation back then, so I thought it would be cool to find out what it was like to explore the world then. It’s very exciting to think about all the mysteries that lie ahead.”
Pattinson will reportedly play the part of Carl Röber, a German explorer who sets out to find the legendary City of Z in the 1890s. Along the way, he crosses paths with a religious cult headed by a charismatic Englishwoman named Emily (played by Emily Browning).
The story centers on Röber, who despite his skepticism regarding miracles, is seduced by Emily’s charisma — not realizing that she is a deceiver who must be stopped before she brings ruin to all.
Emily is loosely based on the real-life English religious and social reformer Emily Davison, who founded a religious order in 1881 and spent the next four years traveling the world, holding Christian revivals and reforming polygamy and child labor — among other things. (Her efforts led to the outlawing of child labor and the improvement of working conditions.)
The production designer of “The Lost City of Z,” Kim Masters, said the period setting allowed the filmmakers to create a design sensibility that is distinct from that of a contemporary movie. (Masters worked on the 2008 film “The Duchess” and was the production designer on the 1995 film “Leaving Las Vegas.”)
“We were able to push the look of the time really dramatically. So it’s not like anachronistic; it’s very contemporary, but we did that on purpose,” Masters said, according to Variety.